Old Screen Doors, Friends, and Mayonnaise Sandwiches

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a [loaf of] bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.” ― Shel Silverstein

Shel’s words put me to thinking of old screen doors, flapping in the breeze. I like quotes…other people’s quotes because I’m not bright enough to create my own. I’m a lot like an old screen door. How many slams do I have left?

The old door’s paint is an silver gray that was once white. In places bare wood shows, the paint worn away from the many hands pressing against it. I remember the slam it makes as it shuts behind you. A shout from one of the grownups, “Quit slammin’ the door!!!!”

A portion of the screen shows rust, ready to crumble if touched. The spring that pulls the door shut is sprung, not doing its job as well as it did when it was first hung.

My hinges are still intact but operate with a rusty squeak. Like the old door, with a little help, I’m able to do the job of filling the space I was first hung to fill. Just push the door closed gently and don’t make me move too quickly.

I don’t know how many slices of bread I have left in my loaf. I’m sure those that I have are dry like toast, and a bit moldy. Looking in a mirror, I’m thinkin’ moldy hardtack. Is it an age thing to contemplate your future as you look back on your past?

As the size of the loaf decreases, I wonder, “Is it better to slice them thin or cut the slices thick?” I do love my carbohydrates but to carry the metaphor further, “Isn’t it what is on the inside of the sandwich that makes the sandwich?” A fresh tomato sandwich is just a mayonnaise sandwich if you hold the tomato. Isn’t the bread there to soak up the sweet juices of the tomato and the tartness of the Dukes Mayonnaise? There may be a metaphor there too. Doesn’t our outward glow come from the juices within?

The rest of Shel’s quote deals with what is on the inside and I’m not sure about that either. “How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

I’m not doing a tremendous job of “living” my days well. If living them good requires productivity, I’m empty. I have plenty to do…I’m just not doing it. I choose instead to frolic with my new puppy or author essays that you people don’t read. Well, I must do some grass mowing and weed eating…tomorrow.

I have two close friends, my bride, and the legend Hawk. I’m lucky to know two people I can count on…outside of my family…maybe. Granted, they may grumble a bit…especially my bride. I feel inadequate when I compare their friendship to my friendship toward them. Is it enough to just be there? I feel I should do more. Are they investing more than I?

I need to be less contemplative. I feel inadequate when it comes to my family too.

Elbert Hubbard is quoted, saying, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” I do agree. It’s good to have someone to talk to who won’t judge you and holds on to my secrets like a miser pinching a penny. Thoughts I would never tell my wife I tell Hawk, and vice versa.

Friends are comfortable with each other. Comfortable to sit and listen and reframe from commenting. No opinion, no commentary, no judgement. Just a simple nod of the head. Comfortable to tell the truth when asked without fear of someone getting their nose out of joint.

Comfortable like your favorite jeans…or a worn-out screen door. They don’t even seem to mind when it slams behind you. Okay, maybe I’m a better friend than I supposed. I listen and nod my head a lot.

Now if I can answer the question, “Cut the bread thin or thick?” I think thick…go for the gusto and make sure the tomato is thick too…add a grilled hamburger with lettuce and onions. You get from life what you put into it. My grandmother would have said, “You reap what you sow.” I would say, “If you don’t take the time to plant them, there won’t be a tomato slice in your sandwich.”

Don Miller writes on various subjects in various genres. His author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2Tt2GKJxfLHrqnRj07OkDGGWGHSd2QDPwTSQgohR3DMnLhAvDoeDL8nGY

Of Blind Hogs and Acorns with a Hoochie Coochie Thrown in For Good Measure

“For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”, here’s an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!” ― Frank Kaiser

I’m really distracted. Too much is going on. A new puppy dog, “Doing well, thanks for asking.” Still trying to synchronize our schedules. He is winning.

Trying to get the garden in, I still got beans to plant. A mower with two flat tires has slowed my attempt to retake my yard…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, what am I doing? Nothing productive I assure you. I’m listening to Keb’ Mo’ and following a pig trail in hopes of falling into a rabbit hole that leads me to a bit of traction and clarity. Morning rain showers give me a valid reason to procrastinate and I’m having no more luck finding an acorn than a hog swimming in the ocean.

See the source image
Old Southern Sayings by Granny. https://saintstevensthingery.com/

Kevin Roosevelt Moore’s smooth baritone is singing about a “whole ‘nutha thang”, a tune about an addiction…to women.

“I don’t care much about cocaine
And you’ll never see me jumpin’ out no airplane
Wine and whisky don’t give me no thrill
And I don’t care nothin’ about them nasty little pills
But women, now that’s a whole nutha thang”

I have great appreciation for women…not addicted mind you, just appreciation. As I’ve said before, “My mother was a woman.”

Keb’ Mo’ Live “Whole Nutha Thang”

Down on the right side of my computer screen are more YouTube selections. I spy Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Great, now my distractions are having distractions. Another pig trail. I feel like a blood hound whose nose has sucked up a hand full of black pepper.  A memory of a county fair during my college days comes to mind. I won’t say which county or college.

Inside the fair, A barker in front of a tent screamed, “Girls, Girls, Girls.” There were two “Girls, Girls, Girls” on either side of him dressed in ‘harem clothes.’ Even as a less than sober frat boy I knew he lied. The youngest was a heavily made up “Autumn Belle.” They were exotic dancers doing the hoochie coochie dance. That was a lie too. None looked like Rita Hayworth doing Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils.”

From Pinterest

In traditional terms, the hoochie coochie was a sexually provocative belly dance-like dance that dates from the mid-to late 1800s. If Wikipedia is to be believed, it was a hit at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, the World’s Fairs in Paris in 1889 and Chicago in 1893. It is also called the coochie coochie dance which gave rise to calling a woman’s…no, not going there.

Supposedly, the craze died out by World War Two…that’s not true or no one told the county fair, and, in the South, we tend to be fifty years behind the rest of the world.

Exotic dancer Mata Hari who was executed as a spy during WW I.

There was nothing traditional about these dancers.  They had plenty of belly to dance with although they seemed more content taking off their clothes and doing amazing things with certain parts of their anatomy…with ping pong balls and a kazoo no less. Their tassels…well, let’s just say their tassels dusted the floor as they twirled. Well, counter rotating tassels are pretty amazing.

This was not one of my proudest moments.

While the dance or the woman dancing is mentioned several times in Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee“, where “it gets hotter than a hoochie coochie” it is only mentioned once in the Coaster’s hit, “Little Egypt”.

“She had a ruby on her tummy and
A diamond big as Texas on her toe
She let her hair down and she did
The hoochie coochie real slow
When she did her special
number on a zebra skin
I thought she’d stop the show”

I don’t know where I’m heading with this. If I were a blind pig, I certainly would not have found an acorn. I’m just gonna let the devil take me.

Historically, Little Egypt was the stage name for at least three popular belly dancers from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. There were so many imitators the name became synonymous with belly dancers generally and hoochie coochie dancers specifically.

Fahreda Mazar Spyropoulos is thought to be the original Little Egypt from the Chicago Fair. Several women dancers adopted the name of Little Egypt and toured the United States performing some variation of this dance, sans ping pong balls. It is associated with the Dance of the Seven Veils, Salome’s dance performed before King Herod in the New Testament. I understand John the Baptist, the main attraction at the feast, might have lost his head over it.

The original Little Egypt circa 1893. Fahreda wasn’t Egyptian. She was Syrian. http://www.reddit.com Notice she has no belly button.

Well, I haven’t gained any traction or clarity and there are no acorns to be found. I will leave you with….

“Step right up, folks
And see Little Egypt do her
Famous dance of the Pyramids
She walks, she talks
She crawls on her belly
Like a reptile
Just one thin dime
One tenth of a dollar
Step right up, folks”

For more coherent writing try Don’s author’s site https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0S5wz5QbGlMVI7ccMLoIgV5s-ylU8uhnt25UCyqU_pFnRIsLuOJUi9GoQ

Booger!

“Boogerrrrr!” – Dr. Johnny Fever, WKRP in Cincinatti

“Bet he’s a booger, ain’t he!” I don’t think the older man at the garbage dump meant it the same way Dr. Johnny Fever did…a dried up, nasal mucus discharge everyone suffers from, yet saying it on air got the good Doctor of Discology fired, landing him at WKRP.

The older man was eyeing my new addition, Sir Quigley Apples…okay Apples for short…for now. Strange name for a puppy dog. Blame whomever rescued him for the name Apples and my bride for adding Sir Quigley…okay, I might have been at fault. I wanted to change his name to Quigley.

To complicate his issues, Quigley is the first male puppy we’ve had in over thirty years, and we call him “she” more than we call him, “he.” We have decided he will identify as gender neutral…he has been “fixed” anyway. Think about that, men. To be “fixed”, men must undergo a certain procedure.

The elder gentleman in the beat-up black pickup turned to the other elder gentleman in a black beat-up pickup truck and exclaimed, “What an interesting looking puppy. What is he, bet he’s a booger, ain’t he?”

Quigley is interesting…and a booger. A blue Merle, “mostly” Australian Cattle Dog, who is a tripaw.  A rescue, he was found on the side of the road with a crushed front paw. With a crease on his head and the other scars on his one-year-old body, I’m sure poor Quigley was hit by a car and left to die.

Sir Quigley Apples was found too late to save the paw or the leg it was attached to. Being “mostly” an Australian Blue Heeler, it seemed appropriate to add Quigley to his name. Quigley was the title character in the movie “Quigley Down Under” set in Australia. The character played by Tom Selleck was stalwart and tough…a bit of a booger, so is Quigley Apples. Now if I can find a female to go with him, I’ll name her “Crazy Cora.”

See the source image
Matthew Quigley and “Crazy Cora”- Pinterest

I’d say “my” Quigley is adjusting well. He is laying in his chair with three feet in the air mocking a dead cockroach and snoring contentedly. That would be the chair that used to be mine. Learning to “sit boy, sit” and chase squirrels can be exhausting. I’m thinking about taking a nap myself. We have a little work to do on our schedules but I’m sure I’ll be trained soon. As I write this, he has been in our care less than four days.

Don’t mind me, I’m chillin’ in my forever home

It has been a long time since I heard the word “Booger” used in the old gentleman’s context. I used to hear it all the time back home. Now I rarely hear it unless Booger McFarland, the football player turned analyst is reporting on TV. Booger was certainly a booger on the playing field.

Up here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge there was Booger Pruitt…from my limited time around him I’d say he got his nickname honestly. “He was sho nuf a booger, God rest his soul.” You wouldn’t know him probably and he was one of those good ole boys who ended his life right after saying the immortal words, “Hey Y’all, watch this.” Guaranteed, it had something to do with unaged and illegal libations.

No, the context was booger as in bogyman, devil, monster, haint, or goblin. I was introduced to “booger” at an early age, “Boy, you better stay in that bed. If’fin you don’t a booger might git ya.” During those days I don’t think I knew exactly what a booger was. I knew I didn’t want to git got and was quick to look down and search before I got out of bed.

Moooooom! Come quick! It’s a dust bunny!

I’m guessing the word comes from my forefathers. At least part of my DNA comes from the Scot Irish that came to Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s and then trekked through the Appalachians. Booger has an Appalachian ring to it like haint has a Geechee-Gullah ring.

Maybe not. As I look for its origins it seems more English and a derivative of Bugger or Boogie and kissin’ cousins to a bugbear or bugaboo. All are sorta defined as imaginary beings invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them. “Don’t get out of that bed, that bugaboo gonna eat cha!” Actually, Booger sounds better.

I researched the origin of the other booger. I didn’t dig deeply enough and failed to extract its origin.

Facts you didn’t want to know. Forty-Four percent of people questioned admitted to dining on their own boogers. I believe fifty-six percent lied. Dried mucus could be beneficial for the immune system according to some booger-eating lung specialists.

“The Booger under the bed” or its close cousin, “The Boogieman under the bed,” makes me wonder. As scarry as the world is in real life, why do we terrify our children with make believe. Hummmm…I reckon booger is better than, “You better stay in that bed. If you don’t the serial killing pedophile in the closet will get you.”

As I think about it, we’ve created a new class of boogers to scare our children with. Those we see as “others”. Those who don’t act, talk, worship, love, or look the way our opinion dictates they should. Again, don’t we have enough real Boogers? Do we need to create more?

I grew up in a time when it was safe to leave your doors unlocked and a quarter mile walk down Highway 521 to Pettus’ Store was a daily affair for an eight- or nine-year-old with no thoughts of “Boogers” to beware of. Those would come later. It seems as one reaches adulthood the “Boogers” multiply and aren’t found under your bed.

I’ll stick with my little wide-open Booger. A loss of a leg does not slow him down. I’ll just have to work on our schedules…I’m more likely to change. I’m also determined to teach a three-legged puppy to shake without falling on his nose causing a mucus discharge, “Booger!”

Doctor Johnny Fever says Booger

To peruse other choices by Don Miller, go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR37yN-pI3qP_wTywID-wjTYgGazQNc2W10OrrXURozxPBImd8LQ_8vzhyU

May Day Ain’t What It Used to be

“Spring (May) is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
― Robin Williams

I was informed of a lengthy list of Spring activities happening this weekend. The weekend that includes Sunday’s May 1st… May Day. Thank you “Your Friend Four”, the local news station and their morning anchor for filling me in.

There was not one mention of a May Day celebration or a May Pole. Where has May Day gone? A victim of the Christian Sunday or Christian persecution due to its pagan roots?

If I Google May Day I get celebrations of workers, branded Anarchist, Communist or Socialist by my right leaning friends. If I Google May Pole, I find images of scantily clad ladies hanging from a stripper pole. I wish I were that limber.

There is much to do around the foothills of the Blue Ridge this weekend, but the closest you get to the “spirit” of May Day is the “euphoria Spring Fest presented by Lexus.” When I clicked on their link, the Spring Fest was more about food than the celebration of Spring. It is also a chance to dance around a new Lexus rather than a May Pole, I guess.

I did find one May Day celebration. May Day Faerie Festival at Marshy Point. All Right!!! Now we’re cookin’ with gas…in Maryland you say? Oops.

There was a time. Girls in ethereal, white dresses and flowers woven in their hair, mocking wood nymphs or Spring witches while dancing around a “May Pole”. A bonfire might have been involved. May Day had a decidedly pagan feel to it with good reason. In a time long ago, I celebrated even though as a child I knew not what we were celebrating.

Charles Amable Lenoir – A Nymph In The Forest

The child in me remembers a May Day celebration held in my school’s gymnasium. I was forced to participate by my fifth-grade teacher or our music teacher. I forget which. I suspect they were in cahoots.

Little boys in their school clothes, too long blue jeans rolled up over sneakers, were matched with female classmates dressed in colorful little girl dresses. We were forced to dance, skipping through an arbor covered in fake vines and around the gym floor. The only upside was I was matched with the fifth-grade love of my life that was never to be. How could it have been? Every time I tried to speak to her, I stuttered. I remember choking back a sick feeling, fearing I might throw up as we touched hands.

Later, I went to a fine Southern institution of higher learning associated with the Lutheran Church. May Day and Lutheranism had Germanic roots so it is inevitable we would celebrate May Day. The area my college was founded in was named the “Dutch Fork”. Dutch was a mispronunciation of German in their own language, “Deutsch”.

German immigrants settled in the area between the Saluda and Broad Rivers of South Carolina in the mid-1700s when incentives were offered to European Protestants to go forth and multiply while growing crops in the fertile river bottoms. Unlike the Pennsylvania Dutch, German culture beyond family names and Lutheran Churches has not survived…including, I guess, May Day.

A delivery of a Mayday basket of flowers to First Lady Grace Cooledge in 1927 – Library of Congress

We had a fine celebration at the college. A concert provided by the college band and jazz ensemble along with the choir. Baskets of spring flowers, treats, a Germanic blond coed named as the May Queen…purely a popularity contest…and she was quite popular. There might have been fruit punch laced with alcohol by one of our less than upstanding young men.

We Southerners do love a good celebration complete with a beauty contest and spiked fruit punch. These were the early Seventies, and it seems now like it might have been medieval times. Of course, we had the mandatory May Pole dance with coeds winding streamers around a tall pole anchored in the center of quad…until our Dean of Women got involved. She deemed our liberal arts education as too liberal as it related to certain fertility rites.

Part of a traditional German May Day Celebration-Erster Mai

There are competing theories about the origins of the May Day celebration. The symbolism of the maypole has been debated by folklorists with no definitive answer arriving. Some scholars classify maypoles as symbols of the world axis, others believe maypoles were erected as trees covered with garland and a sign that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned. These were celebrated by towns people with substantial amounts of food and drink…and bonfires.

Erecting the May Pole – Double entendre? pinterest.com

The fact that these celebrations were found primarily in areas of Germanic Europe has led to the speculation that the maypoles were in some way a relic of a Germanic pagan tradition. I ascribe to this speculation.

A more recent speculation involves the belief that the May Pole represented a phallic symbol and young ladies dancing around it, a symbol of…well, I’ll let you use your imagination. I raise my red Solo cup filled with spiked punch and toast to a fertile Spring.

Our Dean of Women used her imagination when she learned of this, and it did not bode well for the May Pole dance specifically and the May Day celebration in general. She didn’t much like the annual “panty raid” either.

She was the prudish female who proved the stereotype. An older, unmarried woman, small in stature but who had a look and tongue that could cut you off at your knees. I was never comfortable in her presence at all and hoped I would never run afoul of the acid dripping from her tongue. Her influence was legendary and at her insistence May Day celebrations ended.

Supposedly…and, like the origins of May Day, this is up for debate…her comment to our college President included the statement, “If we are going to have young ladies dance around a pole, young men should dance around a hole in the ground.” Legend or rumor? I do not know.

There is something about a good pagan festival… if the animal sacrificed is a pig, slow cooked over hardwood coals. Good clean fun until it isn’t when the barbarians run off with the women folk. Food, drink, a bonfire. My last bonfire with a group of barbarians was several years ago. We were celebrating life and it was early May. It may well have been pagan.

Instead of young nymphs, older folks used clear, unaged alcohol and herbal remedies to relive those earlier days of our youth. Instead of dancing around a May Pole we moved slowly to Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin with a little Jerry Butler to mellow things out. The only real difference between then and now was we all left the bonfire about the time we once got going full tilt in those thrilling days of yesteryear.

Have a happy first day of May.

Don Miller’s writings may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR363X9GP0lfBwVyIKKbwNaXeetnwVkmkqDyMNODvmLaMOHeqg8KCystRMo

To Puppy or Not to Puppy, that is the Question!

“I wish I lived in [a]world, where it’s sunshine and puppies all the time.”
― Charlotte Huang, Going Geek

I fear the question is not “to puppy or not to puppy.” More likely it is, “Will there be one, two, or three puppies?” We are going to visit puppies today.

My bride and I have been surrounded by animals during our near forty years together…except for the previous two years. The pain of losing our darlings of fifteen years, Maddie, and Tilly, has been too much. We’ve mentioned inviting a fur baby into our lives and then listed a litany of reasons why we shouldn’t. That may be ending…maybe.

A friend of mine thinks we need a puppy and continues to send links to local shelters. I love her and hope she continues but I’ve been able to avoid the cuties until early last week. Three sisters, little balls of fur, big ears, and sad faces. “Come on old man, come get us!” We are supposed to ‘visit’ today.

Maddie and Tilly were Cattle Dogs, Blue Heelers. These are Heeler mixes and I’m in love. I just wonder. Heelers are high energy and I fear my tanks are running dry.

Tilly and Maddie waiting patiently for a checkup

Puppies, Bubba, Brodie, Bogie, Sassy Marie, Jackson, Maddie, and Tilly, short for Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue. Kitties Minnie Muffin and Santana. A myriad of goats with N-names beginning with the first, Nannie. Bunnies with B-names, the first, a gift for my wife named Buster. A one-legged rooster named Boomer. Their graves surround our home reminding us of love and commitment.

These don’t include the wild animals that grace our homestead in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. All are welcomed and make our lives richer…even the bear that occasionally tears down my fence and steals my trash.

I’m reminded of the possum gifts Maddie and Tilly would bring us. To my knowledge not one was injured or died. They really do play possum, especially the one that tired of “playing” and got loose in the dining room.

Questions lead to more questions and will lead to decisions. One, two, or three? Do we need a puppy…or three? Do we have the energy to deal with a new puppy…or three? Will we outlive our puppy…or puppies? If they are as long lived as our last three, I’ll be eighty-seven. Does that puppy, or do those puppies, need us? Is it that I just want a puppy? Am I overthinking it all?

Henley

My bride is not helping me. I can’t read her. I know she wants a puppy but am I forcing the issue? Can she resist if they are not the “right” puppies? She has never resisted anything with fur.

Are we even set up to house a puppy…or three? Fences need to be mended, literally not figuratively. If we bring them in, we must declutter…whether we get puppies or not we must declutter.

Crate training and house training…sit, fetch, stay, roll over, play dead. Geez. The fact is they train us as much as we train them…and they are so loving and soooo much fun. There is nothing like a puppy asleep in your lap.

Haisley

They aren’t children…but like children they can’t be left to their own devices. Done right, they require care and commitment. If you think putting a puppy on a chain and leaving it outside is being a puppy parent, you are deluding yourself and making an animal’s life less worth living.

We have ninety acres of land with a large fenced in area around our house. Perfect, except for the wildlife that once ran unimpeded before puppies wanted to herd them. The squirrels, the raccoons, the possums, the bunny that is almost tame. The occasional snake. Decisions, decisions.

Hartley

Like children, they are expensive. They must be dewormed, groomed, their nails trimmed and treated when they get sick. They have accidents.  You have never lived until staggering downstairs in the middle of the night and stepping in a warm, squishy, stinky, goo. “Good morning to you!”

But there is soooo much love to be had…and given. That is the big question. Do I still have the love to give? I do, or I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Addendum

Our trip didn’t bear fruits or puppies. Turns out that they weren’t as advertised. Do not despair for us because sometimes fate intervenes. We are hot on the trail of a heeler puppy that we will visit this weekend. Until then enjoy the video.

Blog image used from Pixels. Hendley, Haisley, and Harley copied from the shelter site.

Don Miller writes on various subjects and genres. Connect with him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-vMhl68w_x0yUPu5L-_NRugT5oWoOBrlnr7QolweAJPyDHgcZP1qhayI

Intersecting Easter

“In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life, the roots of something new frequently lie in the decaying husks of something old.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

As I finished my walk with my best friend the conversation turned toward religion, as it often does. It continued while we drank our morning coffee at a local cafe. For some reason he thinks I’m more versed in this area than I really am. Less versed but our conversation got me thinking. Always an uncertain condition for me.

One of my thoughts was how the conservative, Evangelical Southern Baptist and the liberal, raised Methodist, and Dudeist continue to find common ground. Tis a shame some of our other brothers and sisters in faith can’t find the common ground. All it takes is a little work on both our parts. For clarification I am the liberal, he the conservative.

Later my thinking took me down a pig trail and the mental gymnastics I attempt to avoid. Coming to grips with my own beliefs…or lack thereof. A day of thinking turned into my own form of comedic relief. I realize it may only be funny to me.

April is a month in which the three major monotheistic religions and pagans celebrate important somethings and I found myself doing a bit of research. I am no longer as less versed as I was three mornings ago, but a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

Today, as I share this, is the Christian Easter, the most important celebration on the Christian calendar that proclaims Christ’s victory over death and the forgiveness of our sins as we are washed in the blood of Christ. As a child, being washed in the blood of Christ was a bit scary as were many of the stories told to me from the Bible. I still find myself more literal than I should be.

Besides celebrating the resurrection of Christ, we have expanded our celebration to include Easter hams, hot cross buns, new clothes, chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs, and rainbow-colored chicks along with Passion Plays, Easter Masses and Communions. There seems to be a tie in with the Christian Easter and ancient pagan spring festivals celebrating fertility and rebirth. (More on that later)

In accordance with Christ’s teachings, this connection to pagan festivals is perfectly fine with me. Resurrection is a form of rebirth and there are fertile fields of pseudo believers, nonbelievers, and those who have slid back waiting to be harvested. I know, for I am one.

Connected to Easter, Biblically and by the calendar, is the Jewish celebration of Passover, the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring. To translate that into English for non-Jews, Passover is celebrated from April 15 through April 23. In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox which means Easter is celebrated near Passover. In the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is a bit more complicated because it involves a different calendar but sometimes, they even coincide.

During the time of The Passover, according to the Book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to mark their homes with lamb’s or goat’s blood so that the Angel of Death will pass over them. This was the tenth plague placed upon Egypt for keeping the Israelites in bondage. The plague – the deaths of all first-born males except for those protected by the blood.

After the death of all firstborns, the Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave, taking whatever, they want, and asks Moses to bless him in the name of the Lord. The Passover sacrifice of a lamb or goat recalls the time when the LORD “passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt”.

After ten plagues I understand why the Pharaoh might have been happy for the Israelites to leave but he backtracked some seven days later sending his chariots after them and setting up another miracle, The Parting of the Red Sea.

April is also the month of Ramadan for those who practice the religion of Islam. The Islamic holiday of Ramadan began on April 2 and lasts through the month of April. It’s centered around fasting, self-reflection, and prayer, and serves as one of the Five Pillars of Islam central to the religion.

During this month, Muslims can eat before sunrise – a meal called suhoor – and after sunset. The evening meal is called iftar. The month ends with a celebratory feasting holiday, Eid al-Fitr.

Unlike Easter and Passover, the origin of Ramadan is not surrounded by “blood”…that will come later. According to Muslim traditions, in a cave on a mountain, Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel and was told he was a “Messenger” or “Prophet of God”. This was confirmed to Muhammad by a Christian relative Muhammad discussed it with.

Shortly after, Muhammad began to receive further revelations from Gabriel, as well as from the realizations of his own heart. According to hadith, the stories about Muhammad’s life, all holy scriptures were sent down during Ramadan, making these thirty days the holiest in the Muslim religion.

Along with the monotheistic religions I must shout out to my pagan friends too. I know I have one. They are involved in this intersection too and seem to be a fun group. Their calendar was based off the lunar cycles and equinoxes and solstices were important, none more so than the Spring Equinox. I know their lives were hard, but they certainly knew how to throw a celebration. Their Spring festival to the Goddess Oestara or Eostre or Biblically “Ishtar” being just one.

Their Spring celebration is the origin of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg except for the pagans it was the ‘moon hare’ that laid the ‘Cosmic Egg’ from which emerged all life. It is a short leap to chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs. The ‘hare of Eostre’ became the ‘Easter Bunny’ and the ‘Cosmic Egg’ became the Easter egg. It is thought that the word Easter morphed from Eostre.

A statue of The Cosmic Egg

Further, in pagan time special cakes were baked as sacrificial offerings to the moon goddess and were marked with an equal-armed cross to divide the cake into four quarters. These represented the four lunar quarters. The cake was then broken up into pieces and buried at the nearest crossroads as an offering. Again, we have a short leap to the ‘hot cross buns’…with a slab of Easter ham resting between two halves. That too is of pagan origins.

Biblically, Ishtar, both the mother and wife of Nimrod, a grandson of Noah, became pregnant and bore a son named Tammuz claiming he was the product of a sunray, which caused her to conceive. But Tammuz grew to be a hunter and was later killed by a wild pig. Ishtar, who claimed Nimrod had not died but became the god, Baal. She designated a forty-day period (the source of Lent?) to mark the anniversary of Tammuz’s death.

During this time, no meat was to be eaten. Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, a celebration was made. Ishtar also proclaimed that because a pig killed Tammuz, that a pig must be eaten on that Sunday, preferably in a hot cross bun. I added the bun part.

Enough research and intersection. I hope however you celebrate Easter it is a wonderful experience. I am going to have a ham biscuit.

Thanks to Laura Dye for suggesting the site: Folklore, Customs, Legends and Mythology. It was helpful and the basis of my research on pagan celebrations. I might have even copied a bit.

Google supplied the Bunny Rabbit image although it looks just like the semi-tame bunny who lives in my back yard.

Don Miller’s latest release is a nonfiction group of stories and essays named “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes, More Musings From a Mad Southerner.” The book may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Trails-Rabbit-Holes-Southerner/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Life Without Time

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man, alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” ― Mitch Albom, The Timekeeper

I’m retired and time doesn’t mean as much as it used to.  Since retirement I have had trouble remembering what day of the week it is. Every day is a weekend. But since I’m celebrating another birthday time seems important today.

I should say, the LACK of time seems important. I can’t see the road ahead, but I know it is much shorter than the road behind. I’m not afraid of the dwindling “sands through the hourglass” but it does give me pause to ponder. Everyone does a bit of introspection and self-evaluation on their birthdays…don’t you?

There was a time when my personality resembled Alice’s White Rabbit, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” I was taught that “on time” was at least thirty minutes early. Now I find myself more in tune with the March Hare or Mad Hatter than the White Rabbit. I no longer desire to go anywhere that will dock me for being late.

 I should have an “unbirthday party” and invite the Hare and Hatter to join me. I just won’t tell them what time to have the tea and cake ready. “Just come whenever. I will piddle until you get here.” I will make sure the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar knows to arrive early and will make sure he knows to bring his “srooms.” “Whooo…are…You?” A seventy-two-year-old hippie who has no need for time.

Seventy-two. Boo Hoo. Considering the alternative, seventy-two aint bad.

If I’m not moving, I don’t feel like I’m seventy-two. The mirror says I’m seventy-two. My knees tell me I’m seventy-two. There are myriads of other indicators when I move about. If I must bend over or kneel, I contemplate how many activities I might complete before having to stand again.

Getting up in the morning is a ritual of assessment. “What is not working quite right today?”  I’m at a loss. Sometimes getting out of bed is akin to falling off a ten-foot ladder. I must have slept on my head; my neck is killing me. Other days I bounce out and fear I died during the night because nothing hurts.

“I Don’t Know How to Act My Age. I’ve Never Been This Old Before!” I saw the sentiment embroidered on a hat worn by a man a good twenty years my junior. Jackass! I can relate. How am I supposed to act and why do these other seventy-two-year-olds look so ancient?

A reframe from Jimmy Buffett’s “Nothing but a Breeze” hits me like a brick. “One day I’ll be an old gray grandpa. All the pretty girls will call me “sir!” Now, where they’re asking me how things are. Soon they’ll ask me how things were?” Unfortunately, Buffett’s one day and mine are in our rear-view mirrors. Like Buffett my hair has not only turned gray, but it has also turned loose. I should have started saving earlier for hair replacement.

Jimmy Buffett live singing Jesse Winchester’s “Nuthin’ But a Breeze”

I think I’ve got a cure for my birthday. I’m going feral and take Mitch Albom to heart. I’m ditching my watch and will tear up all my calendars. I will act like the birds, dogs, and deer…except I’ll wear clothing. I haven’t gone that far around the bend. Time will run out, but I don’t have to look at a clock or calendar and count off the minutes and days.

 If that plan doesn’t work, I’ll just sing another Buffett tune, “Trip Around the Sun.”  “Yes, I’ll make a resolution, that I’ll never make another one. Just enjoy this ride – on my trip around the sun. Just enjoy this ride – till it’s done.”

Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around the Sun”

Much to our detriment, man created time. I have a watch, a clock on my wall and on top of my bedside table so it can greet me in the morning and tell me to sleep tight as I say my “Now I lay me down to sleep.” My phone and computer tell me the time and the date. There is a calendar on my kitchen wall. The truth is inescapable, it is impossible to escape time and birthdays while above ground.

Time is a human construct and even the understanding of time has changed…over time. Just ask Einstein…well we can’t because Albert has transitioned to the great cosmic relativity after his last trip around the sun…maybe. I like to think death simply brings another reality that doesn’t involve time.

 “I bought a cheap watch from the crazy man floating down Canal. It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands, it always just says “now.” Now you may be thinking that I was had, but this watch is never wrong, and if I had trouble, the warranty said: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”

Jimmy Buffett and Caroline Jones “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” The song is about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and moving on. My birthday pales.

Between Mitch Albom, Alice, and her Wonderland, and Jimmy Buffett I’ll find an answer…or die trying.

With apologies to all the non-Buffett fans but I’m celebrating my latest trip around the sun! “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me….”

Don Miller writes poorly at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0uOIommkv9nnhPm29GnLeOczmiq5eFTsr_nl-20jF2_0Bt_8fAOyIqkT0

His latest release is Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes: More Musings From a Mad Southerner. It may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GNZFXFT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

Sittin’ and Whittlin’

“Whittling is not just a hobby it is a life skill” -Unknown

In my youth, late in the evening as the workday had wound down, it was not unusual to see old men sitting in rocking chairs or on benches under the overhang of the Junior’s old mercantile. I was ten or eleven, pumping gas, checking oil, and air pressure for my cousin who owned the store. The pay was minimal, but the life lessons were worth millions.

Some of the men told stories while the group listened…I’m sure their stories were retold and embellished over time. Most participated, waiting their turn, laughter erupting periodically. Some of their discussions revolved around the news of the day. There was plenty to talk about in the late Fifties and early Sixties, little brought laughter. Some days a mason jar with a light amber liquid might have been passed around.

They were ‘workin’ men’, all weather beaten, faces crevassed with age and burned brown from too much time spent in fields. Their eyes had a permanent squint from staring toward the sun. Bib overalls or old-fashioned blue jeans were the fashion statements along with fedoras or baseball caps pushed back exposing their less tanned foreheads. The denim was faded from many washes and was patched on top of patches. Heavy work shirts and brogans completed their attire. They were comfortable in their clothes and with the company they were keeping.

There was one man, Mister Jesse, who sat leaning forward in his rocking chair, elbows resting on his knees. He was more a listener than a talker. A Barlow knife was held in his thickly callused hand. In the other was a thick piece of tree limb. As he listened, he used the knife to peel slivers of wood that made a small pile between his feet.

Mister Jesse was a short squat man, more powerful than fat, although the ravages of time had reduced his muscle mass and gravity had pulled his chest toward his middle. He wore thick glasses and squinted at the stick he was whittlin’ on. I wondered if he worked more by feeling than by sight.

There seemed to be a certain art to his knife strokes. If not art, a method to his madness. The shavings were almost uniform. Thin splinters about an inch long until the bark on the limb was gone, its surface smooth and creamy pale with a hint of green. He would pause periodically and put the knife down and stroke the limb like the arm of a woman, the arm of a special woman.

Once he caught me looking at his knife. The blade polished and curved from use and untold sharpening. When closed, the blade hid inside of a bone handle. It might have been three or four inches long.

Mister Jesse smiled, a gap in his front, lower teeth, “You like my knife, boy?”

I was timid but softly answered, “Yes sir.”

Barlow with a bone handle

“It came from the old country. A genuine Barlow made in Sheffield. My great grandfather carried it across the ocean to Pennsylvania and down through the mountains until they settled here. He passed it down to his son who passed it to his and it was passed down to me. Would like to hold it?”

I nodded, “Yes sir.”

He handed me the knife, handle first, “Careful now, that ain’t no toy. Here take this.” He handed me the limb. The bone handle of the knife was rougher than the stick.

Taking my hand and demonstrating, “Hold it like this and draw the knife away from you. Never cut toward yourself iff’in you can help it.”

I was tentative and stroked the knife away from me, cutting a splinter the size of a sewing needle. The next was wide and too deep. It was harder than it looked.

“That’s right, boy. You’ll get the hang of it. You got a knife?”

“No sir.”

“Well, a boy needs a knife. Junior got some Barlows. They Russell Barlow’s but they still good ones. Save up and get you one.”

I did and I’m sorry to say it was misplaced years ago. It was a working man’s knife. Single bladed with a dark wood handle. A locking clip held it in place when opened and an R with an arrow through it was stamped on the metal that held the blade. A Russell Barlow, still a good one.

The knife that triggered my pig trail wasn’t my knife but my father’s. A small twin bladed knife with a creamy yellow mother of pearl handle. It wasn’t a working man’s knife although my father was a working man. I like to think that it was his “Sunday” knife, more for show than work.

The knife sits in a box on my desk in the study. I don’t carry it because I fear I might lose it. I want to pass it down. I don’t have a son, but my daughter might appreciate it. I don’t think my grandson is old enough to appreciate its history much less be turned loose with a sharp object. In time, I guess.

I need to do a bit of work before I pass it along.

Mr. Jesse passed when I was in college. The art of whittlin’ has passed with him, I think. There is too much going on to just sit and whittle. I’m guessing a lot of thinking passed with it, too. Many of the world’s ills might be solved if we took a moment to sit and think, slivers forming a pile between our feet.

I’m old like them now…well-seasoned. I have squinted into the sun too much and my chest has fallen into my middle. I feel about all I’m useful for is whittling. I need to go buy a good knife. The Barlow Company no longer exists, it was bought out in the mid-2000s, but the name continues as a style of knife. I hear Case makes a good one. Nothing fancy, just a good working man’s knife. So, Mr. Jesse, wherever you are, I reckon I’ll save my pennies and get one. I still have time to become a good whittler.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR04JmryGiZ4dKmFNiUXijmwZNfx1a7sd1DFHEVnI7HC8qB1jIT7BisYfqs

His newest release is the non-fiction “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes”, more musings of a mad Southerner. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GNZFXFT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp

“Of the Seven Dwarfs, the only one who shaved was Dopey. That should tell us something about the wisdom of shaving.” ― Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

The opening to NBC’s “Cavalcade of Sports” is playing in my head. If you have forgotten it or are too young to remember fear not, I’ll share it later.

It plays as I’m standing in front of a display of Gillette razors. In a moment I’ll move down the aisle and peruse the choices of shaving soap, lathers, and gels. I’m not sure why I’m contemplating shaving, something I haven’t done since I began to take blood thinning drugs. I’m afraid I’ll nick my turkey neck and bleed to death. I do use electric clippers to tame my beard and clear the skin I choose to leave bare.

I’ve worn some form of facial hair for fifty years. Mustache, beard, goat tee, even a brief period with mutton chops ala Civil War General Ambrose Burnside. Yes, it is from his odd choice of beard styles that we get the name ‘Sideburns.’ It comes from a corruption of his name. Burnside is also remembered for his slow reactions at the Battle of Antietam and his costly failure at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He joins the Earl of Sandwich and Lords Cardigan and Raglan in the ‘anals’ of history.

Off topic history lesson: The 4th Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich to spend more time gambling. Crimean War vets Cardigan and Raglan are remembered for a sweater style Cardigan forced his men to wear and a sleeve style adopted by Raglan after losing his arm to a wound received at the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon. Both Cardigan and Raglan, along with others, share the blame for the ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at Balaclava during the Crimean War.

Back to topic.

My first attempt at growing a beard didn’t go well. My freshman year in college I decided to join the ‘hippie’ culture. Not really, from the second week of attending eight o’clock classes I decided to forego shaving in favor of an extra five minutes of sleep. By Christmas break I had a scraggly beard going.

To get home for Christmas break from Newberry College, I caught a ride to Chester, SC to meet my father and the first words from his mouth were, “Son, when you get home, you’re going to shave that beard.” No “Hey son, it is good to see you” or even a simple, “Hi.”

Having lived on my own for a whole four months I answered, “No, I’m not.” He put the car in gear and drove off with me running after him, waving frantically and yelling, “I’ll shave, I’ll shave, I’ll shave!” I did, too. “If you put your feet under my table you will abide by my rules!!!!” At that time, I was still putting my feet under his table even if it was from long distance.

I don’t quite know why I am contemplating picking up a razor again. I also don’t know why The Gillette March is playing in my head. Okay here it is. Just click on the link below.

NBC’s “Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports” was a mainstay on Friday night TV from the middle Fifties until I began playing sports or dating on Friday nights. It primarily featured a boxing match, two burly men trying to beat themselves senseless and Gillette Razor or Blue Blade commercials. “Look Sharp…Feel Sharp…Be Sharp.” Somehow it translated to “Look Sharp and you’ll Feel Sharp, too!”, whether you were beaten black or blue or not.

As far as I know, my father shaved every day, even on his rare days off. My family was big on hygiene. He would never consider leaving work and running errands until first going home to bathe, shave, and don fresh clothes.  I, on the other hand, once wore the same pair of jeans twenty days in a row. I would have worn them on day twenty-one, but they walked out of my dorm room on their own. For those wondering, “I bathed often and changed my underwear.”

As a child, I remember watching him lather up using Barbasol or Burma Shave. A Gillette safety razor or Schick Injector Razor would be tested against his neck and if needed, a fresh blade exchanged, the old blade deposited in a slot in the medicine cabinet, the new one seated in the razor. Then scraping would commence.

An early Schick Injector style razor

As a child I couldn’t wait to begin shaving and as a septuagenarian, I wonder why? Over fifty plus years shaving age, five or ten minutes per day adds up. Not to mention those days when a styptic pencil was needed but unavailable and I exited my bath with bits of tissue paper stuck to bloody nicks when I didn’t take enough care or should have changed blades.

Yet, here I am, contemplating the un-contemplatable. Shaving my beard…or at least parts of it.

I bought a can of Barbasol and a package of Gillette’s newest technology. They are resting comfortably and unused under my bathroom sink. I did get as far as using the electric clippers on my turkey neck. I just couldn’t take the next step. I’m retired and my wife likes the “Grizzly Adam’s” look. She even liked my attempt at growing a ponytail and lamented when I chose to clip it off.

So. Do I really need to “Look Sharp?” Well, I’d like to “Feel Sharp.” Maybe I’ll just “Be Sharp” and shave my neck and see how that goes…or not.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach turned writer who self publishes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1584wnM_B2zqveCoez2z0rXxysYi4JNkZRXwETiYsGSzxmsd4TjClfq5o

Smells Like Chicken

“But my heart’s running ’round like a chicken with its head cut off

All around the barnyard, falling in and out of love

The poor thing’s blind as a bat, getting up, falling down, getting up

Who’d fall in love with a chicken with its head cut off?”

“A Chicken with its Head Cut Off” by the Magnetic Fields

I’m prone to follow my thoughts as they fall into a rabbit hole, diving in to see what is at the bottom. I’m not sure this was a rabbit hole. It was more a black, iron kettle sitting on a fire, water rolling, and steam rising. At some point, I realized I smelled like chicken.

I was lying face-down on an operating table while my dermatologist removed the latest squamous cell carcinomas from my calf. This was the third or fourth in that location which joined the two on my ear, and a couple on the thigh of my opposite leg. That has nothing to do with the story exactly, but I wish I had kept up with my total number of stitches during my lifetime. Seems like I’m always cutting something or getting cut upon.

The calf had been numbed and the doctor’s touch was light. A little pressure he said, no pain. It couldn’t have been much pressure and there was no pain. I was just at the point of falling asleep when he began to cauterize the bleeders. It was the smell of my own toasting flesh and singed leg hair that brought me back and took me back to my childhood.

Back to a boiling black cauldron of water and the poor chicken that was about to give her all so I could eat a chicken leg for supper.

Periodically my grandmother, Nannie as we all called her, would begin a fire outside, under a big, black, iron caldron. As the water heated, she would pick up her ax and head to the chicken coop. Gothic chicken horror music should be playing in your head. A less than productive egg producer was about to die.

We were meat eaters, and the death of farm animals was a common occurrence. It wasn’t kept a secret from the children. There were no worries about our delicate sensibilities. We knew how the meat, fish, or poultry ended up on our plates. We had been warned about naming our animals, but I still found it sad when Bacon, Sausage or Henny Penny went to meet their maker. Sad until those pork chops or chicken legs hit the frying pan.

 I would follow my grandmother to the coop realizing a macabre sight was about to unfold.  I didn’t find joy in the occurrence, but I knew there was something odd about chickens with their heads cut off running about willy nilly before finally flopping over. I remember when I first studied the French Revolution. I truly wondered if King Louie XVI or his wife, Marie Antoinette, ran around like a chicken after their beheading. Truth, I kid you not. I was just a stupid kid.

After the beheading, Nannie would take the chicken and dip it in heated water for five or ten seconds and begin to pull feathers. If they were too hard to pluck, she would continue to dip the chicken into the water until she had supper plucked. Then she would dry the chicken and with a burning piece of wood, singe the pin feathers off before gutting and butchering. That was the smell triggering my memory.

The memory came when the smell of my own burning skin and hair hit me. The memory was as if I was there, sixty years ago. Not pleasing…smell or memory. The memory of frying chicken battered and turning brown in Crisco is a much better memory. I can smell it now and a Johnny Cash tune is running in my head. Or it might have been Kris Kristofferson.

“Then I crossed the empty street

And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken

And it took me back to somethin’

That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way”

I haven’t lost the memory of a chicken leg, crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. The memory is quite pleasing. Colonel Harland Sanders, eat your heart out. She did more with chicken coated with flour, salt, and pepper and shallow fried in Crisco than any of your secret recipes.

From the Johnny Cash Christmas Show, 1978

***

Postscript: Except for the smell, everything went well. I got to add twelve stitches to my total and am recovering with just a bit of discomfort.

Don Miller writes in multiple genres, both fact and fiction, and combinations of both. His latest is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” which may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Trails-Rabbit-Holes-Southerner/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=sr_1_1?crid=TKS6SAC9M2I9&keywords=Pig+Trails+and+Rabbit+holes&qid=1647603975&s=books&sprefix=pig+trails+and+rabbit+holes%2Cstripbooks%2C2247&sr=1-1