My Body is not a Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three additional quotes from Satchel Paige:

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

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

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

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

The “Worser Days”

“But I’m here to let you know
That I’ll love you like you deserve
I’ll treat you right
And on a cold, cold night
I’ll shower you in hugs & kisses
And soup”

― Talia Basma, Being

It’s not soup season but here I am thinking about it anyway. Who am I kidding, any season is soup season. I won’t bore you with the triggers, what I call the Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes of my mind. But let’s talk soup…cooter soup and my grandmother.

On my morning walk, Quigley my “tripaw” Blue Heeler and I watched a huge snapper swim by, and it took me to bygone days. It took Quigley nowhere; he was busy rolling in the grass.

My memory was of a morning spent fishing and the memories the activity triggered. As I fished, an alligator snapping turtle paid a visit that day too, as did several Eastern water turtles.  I’m sure they were looking for a free meal from a stringer that wasn’t there.  I was fishing “catch and release” remembering the trials of cleaning fish. I remembered when cooters were food and harder to clean than fish.

We called the turtles cooters back in the day, from the West African word kuta.  With a modern change in usage, I must be careful when using the name and ready for an explanation. 

Momma cooter looking for a place to lay her eggs this Spring

The snapper’s shell was as big as an old-fashioned Caddy hubcap.  My grandmother spoke in my head, “Don’t let a cooter bite you ’cause it won’t let go till it thunders.”  I answered back as I often do, “I don’t know about that Nannie, but I know he’ll take a finger off.”

There was a morning when, as a child in short britches, I hopped up on a rock and it began to walk off. I screamed at my Nannie. She, when seeing the object of my distress, with sack dress held up above her knees, ran off and came back with a butcher knife and a seventeen-gallon wash tub. I was about to be taught the intricacies of butchering and cooking a cooter.

In the present day, I made the mistake of casting near the turtle trying to scare him away.  Big ‘uns like that don’t scare. Despite his size he was quick in the water.  The old mossback submerged and took the worm and hung himself on the hook.  I tried to keep him from heading to the bottom expecting him to break my line.  The line didn’t break, instead he stripped the gears in my old reel and hunkered down on the bottom to wait me out.  Looks like I’m in the market for another Zebco. 

My grandmother would make cooter soup from the turtles she caught or those that happen to wander through her yard.  During her day, Southern farmers survived the depression days preparing cooter soup, or catfish stew, or fried rabbit.  She still made use of the free proteins that reminded her of the “worser days”, before and during the Great Depression.  At least she stopped short of possum. She said it was too greasy.  I’ll have to take her word that it is.

I understand turtle soup is now considered a delicacy.  To my grandmother it was free meat from when times were hard. As I researched recipes, I saw a restaurant fare, Mike’s Bait Shop Turtle Stew…it looked better than its name might suggest. There are many different recipes, but I guess my grandmother’s version would be the best…just because.

He looks like he could eat at Mike’s Bait Shop…I mean eat the bait shop.

I remember a big iron pot on an outdoor fire boiling water to dip the cooter in to loosen its shell and skin.  It was a lot of work to crack open the shell and skin and bone the meat, being careful to remove the eggs and liver.  Rich looking dark meat would be parboiled and ground like hamburger, sautéed with onion before being cooked like vegetable soup.  Soup heavy with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, and okra to thicken.  Maybe celery or carrots thrown in for good measure.  Basic “everything but the kitchen sink” soup with a twist.  Everything harvested from her garden, sometimes even the turtle.  The old cooter tasted like chicken with the consistency of beef…or was it the other way around?

I thought of this as I waited for the turtle to resurface. How long can a cooter stay down?  Still waiting after a half hour, I tugged on the line and felt the load on the end move.  Hand over hand I hoped the line wouldn’t cut me if he ran.  He didn’t run and I pulled him close to the bank before taking out my MacGyver knife. I cut my line as close to the hook as I dared, fearing he might exact his revenge by taking a bite out of me and watched the old mossback disappear into deep water.

Walking back home in the midday heat, I carried no fish but there was a spring in my step as I thought the best life has to offer sometimes requires a lot of work…and provides sweet memories too. An evening in late summer came to my mind.  Carrying two stringers of hand sized blue gills, near eighty total.

Two old women who were probably not as old as I imagined, in flour sack dresses and wide straw hats and a small boy sharing the load.  Sitting out under the privet hedge and stars next to the garden cleaning them all.  Nannie, her friend, Miss Maggie Cureton, and a young boy.  Listening to them laugh and tell stories of the “worser days” that didn’t seem so bad.  Enough fish for three families to feast on the next day.

 A memory to feast on for life.

“Change is the salt in the soup of life.”
― Gyles Brandreth, Have You Eaten Grandma?

If you liked this reflection of bygone days, you might like “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes.” It and all of Don Miller’s writings can be purchased in paperback or downloaded at

“Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard”

“My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak, like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.” ― Susan Crandall, Whistling Past the Graveyard

I am doing a lot of whistling past graveyards… to act or talk as if one is relaxed and not afraid when one is afraid or nervous. I’m not sure I’m afraid or nervous, but I am aware…too aware…of the passage of time. Aware that the sands left in the hourglass are dwindling…so maybe there is a little fear and nervousness.

I’ve lost three childhood idols in the past week. Bill Russell, Nichole Nichols, and Vin Scully. I knew none of them personally, but their passing brought pain and a sense of loss, and worse, introspection. Introspection…something I try to avoid.

I’m at an age when I cannot deny my own mortality, but I don’t like thinking about it.

Many of us think we are going to somehow outrun the Grim Reaper but as my best friend says too often, “We ain’t getting out of here alive.” The image of the Grim Reaper in my rear-view mirror has grown closer as I have grown slower. Still, attempting to outrun the Grim Reaper seems to be an effective way to live my life no matter my age and beats waiting around for the scythe to reap me.

Age…I’m at an age that I cannot deny I’ve lost a step or five. First thing in the morning I’m a bit unsteady. I no longer hop out of the bed anticipating the day, I ease out and try and sneak up on it.

When I meet up with old farts, I compare the way they look or move. Compared to many of my contemporaries I’m in fairly decent shape and I could beat them all in a five-yard sprint. With that and a nickel I can buy a piece of bubble gum. I remember when I could buy five pieces of Bazooka for a penny. Why does everyone my age look so old and who is that guy in the mirror?

Life is good but there are the pains that go with a lifetime of normal abuse, and I think mine might lean toward abnormal. Too many repetitive athletic endeavors have ruined my joints, too much fried food has clogged my arteries, too many cigars and brown liquor has addled my mind. I should have taken Billy Noonan’s quote more to heart, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

When someone dies, known or unknown, I tend to compare ages. Well, old Bill was eighty-nine, he was seventeen years older than me. Seventeen years…that’s a long time. I still have time. Then I look back and I realize the past seventeen years have passed in the blink of an eye. I also realize, I’m not guaranteed any time other than what I have with this breath. No amount of whistling past the graveyard will change that.

I’m not afraid of dying. I admit I’m afraid of dying badly, I hope I don’t long for death to come. Dying in the arms of a passionate woman might be the best way to go.

I believe there is “something” after death. Science says energy and mass can be neither created nor destroyed, they can only be changed. I believe conservation of energy will transcend death…or is that more whistling past the graveyard? Is that in a closed system?

Whistling or not, I’ve made plans. My will has been made and I ‘ve requested a gathering of friends, a gathering I intend to attend…even if it is as a small pile of ash. A bottle of Gentleman Jack will be cracked open, toasts made to the dearly departed and funny stories told at my expense. When the bottle is empty, I have instructed my bride to transfer my ashes to the bottle and place them in a cool location. I fear I may need a cool place as I ride through eternity.

More Whistling past the graveyard with Jimmy Buffett.

For more of Don Miller’s “Corny” pone, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3mOJBeCIdYFmtmjd13NuoyUMu5KPAYDTwo_9yA_jnZ2oftvitbyBMjllY

A Decadently Sweet, Exquisite Pleasure

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.” ― Elizabeth David, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

I must add, “and one of the exquisite pleasures of the Southern summer.”

Last week I picked my first home grown tomato. I dined on the first tomato sandwich of the season. Both sweet and tart…in the past week I have dined on at least one tomato sandwich daily and have included them in other dishes. One can never get enough of a good thing.

This week I picked my first fig and ate it in the early morning as suggested by Elizabeth David. The fruit was untouched by the morning sun. Covered in dew it was still cool from the nighttime temperatures. It WAS a decadently exquisite pleasure. I picked more than I could eat at one time but for some reason the picked figs I eat later don’t seem to be as decadent as the ones I eat fresh from the tree.

The Brown Turkey Fig I intend to enjoy…now.

My trees, I have two, came from cuttings my grandmother started for me over thirty years ago. She laid a small limb down on the ground and put a rock on it. When roots formed, she snipped it loose from the tree and I brought it home to transplant. Her tree came from a cutting her mother gave her and I am still trying to get a cutting to give my daughter.

I’ve described the fig as decadent, an odd word to describe the fig considering its religious overtones. Adam and Eve covered their nudity with fig leaves after sampling the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In western culture the forbidden fruit has been portrayed as the apple.

Considering that the fig was cultivated well before the apple, it is quite possible the apple has received a bad rap. The fig might have been the forbidden fruit Lucifer No Shoulders successfully tempted Eve with…if so, decadent might be a perfect word. The fig or the fig tree is mentioned some two hundred times in the Bible, the apple less than ten.

Okay, for the biologists in the group. A fig is technically not a fruit. It is an inverted flower…whatever that is. If it looks like fruit…tastes like fruit…

In the Quran, the fig is considered THE sacred fruit. Buddha rested under the Bodhi Tree, a fig tree whose DNA still exists after three thousand years. It was under this tree the Buddha gained enlightenment. Both the Hindus and Jains consider the fig a holy fruit. The Greeks so loved the fig they enacted laws forbidding the export of them.

A painting of the Buddha under the Ficus Religiosa. The “tree of awakening”.

As Christianity began to view nudity differently than say…the Greeks, religious paintings and statues featuring nudity were redone, some even destroyed in the attempt. Many fig leaves were added after the fact to cover he and she parts.

I’m not sure David needed a covering for his man part.

My figs are Brown Turkey figs. I don’t know why they are called Turkey figs but guess it might have to do with country of origin. Figs are associated with Greece and Asia Minor was awash with Greeks for a thousand years before the Turks of the Ottoman Empire descended upon them.

I’m sure the Greeks brought their fig tree cuttings with them, fig trees that came from Egypt or North Africa to Crete to Greece and then on to Turkey. These became known as Brown Turkey figs. Turkey is one of the top four fig producers worldwide.

I could be wrong but I’m glad someone brought them to Spain and from Spain to Mexico. From Mexico it was only a turkey’s hop, skip, and jump to California. Spanish Franciscan missionaries brought the fig to southern California in 1520, leading to the variety known as the Mission fig. California produces ninety-seven percent of commercial figs sold in the United States. If you like Fig Newtons, thank the Franciscans.

Ain’t cultural diffusion wonderful!

Brown Turkeys normally have two crops. The first, the crop I’m feasting on now, features large brown/yellow fruit on the outside, light red, almost pink insides. Oh, those insides, sweet and sugary, but not so sweet they set your teeth on edge. One site I was reading described the taste as “decadently sweet, providing flavors of hazelnuts and confectionaries.” I just ate one and didn’t get the taste of hazelnuts. I just describe it as good, especially covered in dew in the pre-dawn light.

The second crop provides more numerous fruits but smaller in size. Fruit that is perfect to wrap in bacon and roast in balsamic vinegar. I mean, figs and bacon are perfect together. I still go out in the pre-dawn and eat a few raw before I harvest.

My figs are a labor of love and of luck. Luck primarily. Our climate is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and is not conducive for figs. Several times over the past thirty-five years my tree has been killed down to the roots by a late freeze or the first crop decimated by a killing frost.

Despite my worries the tree would not recover, it always has. In some ways it reminds me of my grandmother who somehow recovered for ninety-eight years. I would never describe her as decadently sweet, but she was an exquisite pleasure, and my predawn fig always reminds me of her.

Expulsion of Adam and Eve ~ Aureliano Milani , 1675–1749

For a humorous guide on how not to gather figs, you might like Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom! https://cigarman501.com/2020/08/16/ha-ha-ha-stupid-man-goes-boom/

Don Miller’s Author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3Sku_ycekhc9FkHrr-nv6_eKa65eciZwTRigrKR9zYwwmglFkhWSfcJ0k

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.

🎶 Time to turn so you don’t burn! 🎶

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

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

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

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

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

The Coppertone Girl and Puppy

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

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

Covered in sunscreen Blogspot.com

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

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

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

Photo by Fabio Pelegrino on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Pinterest.com

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

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

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

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

“Big Hat, No Cattle”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Wayne saunters across the street in Rio Bravo

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

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

“Dime Store” Cowboy? From Urban Cowboy Apparel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Mix in a white ten gallon plus hat

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

Butch Cassady and the Hole in the Wall Gang

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

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

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

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

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