Tastes Like Chicken

Shane Walsh: [about eating frog legs] When you get down to that last can of beans, you’re gonna be loving those frog legs, lady. I can see it now… [imitating Lori Grimes] “Shane, do you think I could have a second helping, please? Please? Just one?”

Lori Grimes: Yeah, I doubt that.

Shane Walsh: [to Carl Grimes] Don’t listen to her, man. You and me, we’ll be heroes. We’ll feed these folks Cajun-style Kermit legs.

Lori Grimes: I would rather eat Miss Piggy. Yes, that came out wrong.

Snappy Repertoire from The Walking Dead

Warning: This is not about The Walking Dead but about my addiction to cooking shows, food, and memories involving frog legs. They do taste like chicken.

Not that I’m ever going to prepare Chicken Kiev or Beef Stroganov, but I watch cooking shows allowing The Pioneer Woman to cause Pavlovian responses cooking brisket with cowboy baked beans featuring burnt ends or Giada De Laurentiis preparing anything. Just stand there Giada, just stand there. Another type of Pavlovian response.

My thoughts raced down a pig trail after a conversation with a Northern friend about what we might have eaten at a restaurant had it been named the “Roadkill Café.” Much of our banter centered around squirrels and possums along with my favorite saying, “flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane highway.”

I pointed out that I had grown up “country rich”, never having to resort to roadkill. I admitted to having been permanently scarred for life cleaning fish and turtles, plucking and gutting chickens, skinning squirrels, and slaughtering hogs to supplement the protein requirements of our diets.  I feel fortunate my family drew the line at possum. I did occasionally eat frog legs, the subject of this rabbit hole I fell into.

Later in the day, as I looked for a recipe for fried frog legs, I stumbled across a YouTube video featuring one of the Duck Dynasty boys preparing frog legs. I watched it. Fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I realized frog legs may taste like chicken, but no one ever shows the nasty side…gigging and skinning little green Kermits or wringing little Henny Penny’s neck.

For some reason, the video reminded of a young lady whose bright light had burned out, who asked, “Why do people raise beef? We can go to the supermarket and buy it.” I’m sure there is a logic there that only she understood. I’m also sure one can find pre-skinned frog legs somewhere but somewhere else there is a frog walking on stumps.

I was first introduced to frog legs when I was quite young. An uncle home from college and a couple of cousins had spent the night gigging frogs…and I suspect, participated in activities my grandmother would have frowned upon involving distilled spirits. Still, they were sober enough to deliver a croker sack of frogs to my grandmother who skinned them and prepared them along with grits and eggs for breakfast.

I remember awaking to the smell of something I was unfamiliar with frying. Sautéing frog legs heavily peppered were literally twitching in butter in a big cast iron frying pan. They were twitching, I kid you not.

Gross alert, view at your own risk

Did you know that Mary Shelly was inspired by twitching frog legs while writing Frankenstein? Sorta inspired. The frog legs weren’t frying but according to the Smithsonian Magazine, Shelley was inspired by the concept of galvanism—the idea that scientists could use electricity to stimulate or restart life. Galvanism, using an electrical current, would cause frog legs to jump. Feel smarter? I wonder if they fried them afterwards.

The French consider frog legs to be a delicacy, but this, according to differing theories, has nothing to do with calling the French the derogatory term, Frog. It is more likely due to the Frog that was a part of the counter-revolutionary flag flown during the French Revolution. No matter what theory do not call a Frenchman a Frog. It’s not nice.

While I was in college, I went gigging with a couple of fraternity brothers and a chemistry teacher. In a flat bottomed jon boat, armed with gigs and flashlights, we paddled the perimeter of a small lake looking for little green eyes glowing in the reflection of our lights. We would paddle in close, gig the frog, and put him in our own croker sack. We might have partaken of some distilled spirits like my uncle but I’m not sure.

All was grand until a snake crawled into our boat. Instead of using an oar to stun the snake and put him back into the water, one of my frat brothers pulled a concealed pistol and put three bullet holes in the bottom of our boat.

The snake? Perfectly safe and still in the boat under the croker sack. The rest of us? Paddling for dear life to get back to the landing while avoiding the snake before we sank. Since that time, I’ve not gone frog gigging again and have only eaten frog legs on an all you can eat seafood buffet a hundred years ago.

It seemed safer to look online and inquire where I might find some preskinned frog legs. Ten dollars a pound plus shipping? Imported? Geez. I guess that is why they are a delicacy. Well since chicken also tastes like chicken, I think I’ll grill up some wings instead.

An excellent recipe for frog legs or chicken wings https://foodchannel.com/recipes/cajun-fried-frog-leg-recipe

The Food Channel

Don Miller’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1rEhMYcMA8cZ4B9q3hI4Csq2sS3MBrJdAEpNjnvu1wqcIuf_yHjBO_HtY

I’m Just Not Feeling it

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.”

― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Happy birthday America! Two hundred forty-six years young. The grand experiment…the shining light on the hill…an example for the free world. I think we need a transfusion or take off our rose-colored glasses.

I’m just not feeling it. Oh, I went to the annual Bennett July Fourth eve cookout and gorged myself on ribs, pulled pork, and Carol Ann’s potato salad. But I’m not feeling the patriotism. Even after talking with a young man (57) who had spent the past eighteen years in China, I couldn’t feel it. It was just a backyard cookout to me, and I didn’t stick around for the fireworks. I’ll probably watch the fireworks on TV but then I will think about the fireworks on January 6, 2021,

I’m not feeling July 4, 2022. I am feeling a bit overstuffed from last night. That’s not a good thing either.

The Fourth of July is supposed to be a celebrated, a day to commemorate independence, a day of freedom…”let freedom ring.” It took seven years of war to gain that independence and when the gunpowder cleared there were many still not free. Should I dwell on that?

I try to take comfort in the history of our nation. We’ve rarely been totally united as a nation. Our history is rife with examples of discord, and few examples when we all marched together, in step for a cause. Somehow, we’ve muddled along despite the discord. Well, there was that four-year period during our Civil War. The best I can say is we have a voice that is allowed to express our discord.

The thought really is only responsible for a small portion of my malaise and indifference. I’ve been in my malaise since 2016 and it is darkening. It isn’t my malaise; it is my country’s malaise, my country’s failure to come together on anything. Rare is there common ground. It is us versus them and them are the traitors.

Malaise: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness. A vague sense of mental or moral ill-being. That is according to Merriam-Webster and sums up how I feel about my country. I fear we are on our death bed.

A post came across one of my social media platforms that gave me pause, “I don’t think America deserves a birthday celebration this year.” That’s what I’m feeling. I’m also feeling that there might not be many more birthdays to celebrate…at least in our country’s present form. America the Beautiful may have an incurable illness and facing life support.

I read a quote made by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.” Fain is a somewhat archaic word that means pleased or willing.

I hear and see posts from people who, by their own voice, call themselves “patriots” and point fingers at people with opposing opinions calling them traitors. This accusation is not even implied, it is boldly printed or yelled. It is on their standards as they march on city streets, wrapping themselves in Old Glory, their faces covered lest someone might see who the “patriots” are. I never thought I would be accused of being a traitor for doing what I thought was right…even if that thought was wrong.

These people are wedges. If you ever spent time splitting wood, you know the function of a wedge…to split. I believe people are being indoctrinated, nay…groomed to be wedges. Whomever is responsible is doing a bang-up job. I’ve never seen us so splintered…not since 1968 and I think 1968 falls short of the mark when compared to present day, July 4, 2022.

On a personal note, I used the words indoctrinated and groomed purposely. I see it all the time when reading about the educational shenanigans in my home state. Mostly they are directed toward my former peers, teachers.

Along with Critical Race Theory and the word “woke,” these are dog whistles or buzz words to further turn people against each other. They are used to wedge apart teachers and parents and liberals and conservatives.

To what end? To destroy public education in favor of for-profit private schools? That is what I think. Just “follow the money.” Propaganda ads reigned supreme as “big money” from out of state fueled one of the sides and our deep red state ate it up. The same is true when the government gets involved. I am so happy I’m a retired teacher. I guess I could retire as an American.

Last quote and I’ll quit beating a dead mule.

“… patriotism lies in supporting the values the country is supposed to cherish: equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. When our government compromises, undermines, or attacks those values, it is being unpatriotic.” Howard Zinn, WW II vet, historian, playwright.

I believe January 6, did just that. January 6th compromised, undermined, and attacked our democracy. As I have watched the congressional committee my depression has grown. I consider myself to be a sane man most of the time. I don’t know how anyone could watch the videos from the January 6 Insurrection and not believe it was exactly that…an attempted insurrection.

It was an attack on our democracy and I believe on some level, planned. I don’t know how you can question what occurred.  I don’t know how you can question what the congressional committee has unearthed.  

Yet people do. They question the election, the motivations, come up with more and more bizarre theories. My malaise grows when I think that many applauded as they watched it unfold on their televisions.

Happy Birthday these dis-United States of America. I’m not sure you were ever as great as I thought you were but I’m damn sure you are not as great as you could be.

Some will say, “If you are so unhappy, maybe you should move to another country.” Well, my retort is unprintable.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that over half our population lost the right to control their own bodies this past week. I fear more losses will occur.

Don Miller’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2YOthoDURrlEvGPVx2PXKdydIqxQqHnp9KNhjdK8ez-tm8sQjz8C4gUPo

Cheerwine…”Nectar of the South”

“Born in the South. Raised in a Glass” – Cheerwine Slogan

The little general store on the winding mountain road caught my eye and without consulting my co-pilot, Quigley Apples, or my navigator, Linda Gail, I slid the Jeep to a stop in front of the ancient gasoline pumps, Gulf with the old clear tops and decorated in blue and orange. There was copious barking, and not from Quigley. My wife did not like being jerked about.

Photo by Kathy Clark

“Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs”.  The store front sported many antique signs, some with bullet holes, but unlike the song, they didn’t block any scenery, they made the scenery. The store reminded me of the image I use for my blog, a colorized version of a depression era general mercantile in North Carolina…except for the Texico pump.

Original photo by Dorothea Lange, colorized by unknown

Once I quieted the snarling from my bride, we made our way into the breeze created by the big overhead fans and the aroma of smashed hamburgers cooking on a gridle with onions. What a glorious smell. Quigley agreed if his nose in the air was an indication. Linda Gail? I’m not sure but her nose wasn’t in the air. She has no affinity for the smell of grilled onions.

What pulled me up short was the ancient Coca Cola ice cooler which, due to its age, had been turned into an ice box. Soft drinks covered in ice, a weep hole drilled into the side to allow the water to drain into a large, graniteware dishpan as the ice melted. With visions of an eight-ounce coke filled to the rim with a package of Lance peanuts, I reached in and got a surprise.

I didn’t pull out a “Dope”, instead my fingers closed around a Cheerwine. Golly, Gee, Whiz, I haven’t seen one of these in a month of Sundays. Well, I don’t get out much and I tend not to choose soft drinks unless it is in a Cuba Libre or Jack and Coke. What a lovely surprise.

Cheerwine has been around since 1917 but for some reason it is scarce as hen’s teeth in my part of the world, or I haven’t been paying attention. Supposedly it is the oldest continuous family-owned soft drink company in the United States, the Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, NC. The family of Lewis Peeler, its founder, runs it and has for the last one hundred and five years.

From their website, “Cheerwine has a mildly sweet flavor with strong cherry notes, most notably black cherry; is burgundy-colored; and has an unusually high degree of carbonation compared to other soft drinks. The product was named for its color and taste”. According to Wikipedia, the company website also states that “it made sense to name a burgundy-red, bubbly, cherry concoction—Cheerwine.” The far superior, “Retro Cheerwine”, variant is sold in glass bottles and is sweetened with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Despite its name, Cheerwine is not really a wine and contains no alcohol. I had scored a glass bottle.

From Zac’s Dinner Menu, Burlington, NC. Note the burgundy color that contains the “strong cherry notes”

As I sipped, I remembered the fountain version sold at the old pharmacy on main street in Monroe, NC that I mixed with another Southern libation Sun Drop. Served with a maraschino cherry, I found it to be better than the traditional cherry, lemon, Coca Cola. There is a drink called “The Whining Pirate” made with Cheerwine and Captain Morgan Rum. I’m getting a bad vibe thinking about praying to the porcelain altar after a few too many Whining Pirates.

The Cheerwine takes me to further memories of the eight-ounce Cokes, Pepsis, and Nehi grape and orange sodas at Pettus Store’s cooler…and the bubble gum machine where a one cent speckled ball got you an eight-ounce nickel Coke for free. With an added nickel I could add a pack of peanuts. Heaven for six cents if I was lucky.

Just for clarification, I used the word “Dope” because the early version of Coca Cola supposedly contained cocaine and the “old folks” called it a “Dope.” Further, if you are in the South and ask for a coke, be prepared to answer a follow-up question, “What kind of coke?” If you actually want a Coca Cola, you should ask for a Coca Cola. The descriptor coke is one of the all-encompassing titles that could include any form of soft drink in the South from Mountain Dews, Sundrops, to Royal Crown Colas. For goodness’ sake, don’t ask for a “soda pop” or it’s shortened version “pop”. You might get run out of town in a northerly direction.

Visit Don Miller’s authors site at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2RoznX3G2uccbNXc-ZvsS1Dxfyk0wvVhXpJYsCeHWey4W1A5nKnlxglDg

Don’s latest book is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” and can be found at the link above.

Lies My TV Taught Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poster from PBS’s American Experience

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

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

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

Rodeo star Bill Pickett-Trend Magazine

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

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

Frame from the Great Train Robbery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in High Noon ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clint Eastwood in a “Fistful of Dollars”

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

***

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

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

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=

A Titch’s Wit

I am contemplating my stupidity. According to the weather liars it’s twenty-seven with a wind chill making it feel like nineteen. I know. You northerners are cranking up the grill and getting the beer put on ice. Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we might be headed toward a modern ice age. I could be in Florida where the cold snap is expected to cause cold-stunned iguanas to fall from trees.

Fear not. It will wake up when it warms up.

Why am I contemplating my stupidity? It is walking day with my best friend, Hawk. Normally we walk on Fridays but scheduling problems and Covid reared their heads, so this is the first walk in three weeks, and it is on a cold and windy Saturday morning.

Two seventy-one-year-olds braving the elements, to set in their ways to ask, “Do you think we ought to just go to the coffee house have a cup of coffee?” Noooo. We are much too manly to do something smart. Neither one of us wants to admit we would rather be sitting in the warmth sipping a dark roast.

Southerners don’t do cold.  Add snow or ice and we are damn near suicidal. It became apparent that Southerners don’t do cold when I looked up “Southern Sayings About the Weather.” For every Southern saying about the cold, there were dozens of heat and humidity sayings and right now you can guess which one I would prefer to be using.

As cold as a well-digger’s butt in January” is about descriptive as we get. That one along with “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”, and “as cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra” are not even Southern. We plagiarized them from our Northern neighbors or some of our English forefathers and foremothers.

Per normal, this sent me down one of my many rabbit holes. Where did such sayings come from?

While freezing the balls off a brass monkey seems to be a physical impossibility, what if I told you that a brass monkey might not be what you are thinking it might be. As one story goes, cannonballs on English ships used to be stored aboard ship in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a ‘monkey’. In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very cold weather is “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.

Cannon balls sitting in a Brass Monkey with a cannon from a British sailing ship.

Notice I said one story, a story that probably isn’t true. According to www.lexico.com, the term ‘monkey’ is not recorded as the name for such an object. “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The rate of contraction of brass in cold temperatures is unlikely to be fast enough to cause the reputed effect and the phrase was first recorded as “freeze the tail off a brass monkey” which removes any essential connection with balls, brass or otherwise. Why let facts get in the way of a delightful story?

It seems that the phrase, “cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey” is simply a humorous reference to the fact that metal figures will become very cold to the touch in cold weather. Descriptive but boring.

Can you tell which one is cold?

So, what about a witch’s mammary glands encased in a brassiere made from an alloy of copper and zinc? One might think Salem Witch Trials or some old English saying but it is not…at least not in print and the saying is not ‘that’ old. It may have been used earlier but first appeared in print when American historian and writer Francis Van Wyck Mason wrote Spider House in 1932. The exact quote was “As cold as a witch’s tit outside.” The addition of the brass bra probably connects to the brass monkey’s testicles in some way.

Actually, a Bronze Age Goddess Bra, not brass. Probably worn in a Russ Meyer sexploitation film although the bra might not be large enough for one of Russ’ heroines.

Interesting fact from the 1700s, the prime time for witch trials. Women with erect nipples were considered to be in league with the devil. This explains an interesting correlation between an increase in witch trials and cold weather…and why a brass bra might have been utilized for protection had brassieres been invented.

That leaves us with “as cold as a well digger’s butt in January.” Do I really need to explain this? If you have ever watched a chubby plumber at work, you have an idea of its origin although plumbers aren’t well diggers.

I’m sure Jeb is a good plumber

There is no scientific reason for a well digger’s rump to be colder than say an ice skaters. “As cold as an ice skater’s butt” is more mentally pleasing than the crack of Ole Jeb’s butt peeking out of his wrangler jeans while he works on my grease trap.

We survived our walk and the rabbit hole fell into. The walk wasn’t bad until the wind blew. Well, it snowed on us. Maybe ten flakes in a minute. We also found we weren’t the only fools out and about. I really enjoyed certain runners in their lycra body suits although I’m sure several could have been put on trial in 1700s Salem for witchcraft. 

For more go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1ThWNJrpUfzoiZb_aT5DzaIQX1-DDiSJiDHVXAzn0ttDYNhLs3VW5w6SY