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

Life Without Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around the Sun”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp

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

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

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

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

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

Back to topic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An early Schick Injector style razor

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

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

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

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

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

Smells Like Chicken

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

All around the barnyard, falling in and out of love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then I crossed the empty street

And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken

And it took me back to somethin’

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

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

From the Johnny Cash Christmas Show, 1978

***

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

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

And Things Continue to Go Boom!

“Listen up – there’s no war that will end all wars.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

The first war in recorded history took place in Fertile Crescent in c. 2700 BCE between Sumer and Elam, two city-states in what was known as Mesopotamia. There is prehistoric evidence of earlier wars, but writing had not been invented prior to the invention of cuneiform so there is no record.  For five thousand years of recorded history, humans have been consistently good at killing each other and creating better ways of killing each other. Earlier wars were fought over resources, goods, or land. Throw in religion and ideology and one sees little has changed.

Somehow a cave man battles an Egyptian priest for the hand of a fair maiden. Alley Oop, the comic strip was founded in 1932.

From sticks and stones, to spears and swords, to sling shots to the invention of gunpowder, muskets, and cannon, galore. To Minié balls and rifled single shot rifles, to rapid fire weapons beginning with the Gatling gun and ending with…it hasn’t.

Flying machines dropping hellfire and brimstone on innocents, to the latest ultimate weapon, nuclear bombs delivered by ICBMs or cruise missiles. Every generation has its ultimate weapon. I am sure there is a new one just beyond the horizon. Setting our phasers to stun is not an option.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
― Albert Einstein

Einstein’s quote recalled the movie “On the Beach” and the novel it was based upon, Nevil Shute’s Cold War, end of the world drama published in 1957. It had it all. Love, hate, stalwart heroes, brave and beautiful heroines, gallows humor, and the death of all mankind. There was no one left to use the sticks and stones. Only the cockroaches armed themselves.

Cover of the Shute novel

I believe a better quote might be, if in fact, there is anyone left….

“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.”
― Anonymous

Gahan Wilson ~ artist | Playboy ~ publisher

The Fifties and Sixties were rife with fear of instant incineration or an agonizing death from radiation sickness. To say the Cold War influenced my outlook on life would be like saying that the Grand Canyon was a hole of middlin’ size.

1950s/60s Bomb Shelter

Duck and cover drills, “In case of nuclear attack” alerts, nuclear escape routes, advertisements for fallout shelters, movies like “Fall-Safe” or the later, “The Day After”, and books like “On the Beach” had profound effects. And who could forget the ’62 Cuban Missile Crisis and a glut of “brush fire” wars or policing actions. I worried about “mutually assured destruction” and searched for a red star every time a large aircraft flew over my head.

Jim Davis Art. Also, published in Playboy The caption reads, “Go ahead and putt…it will be a few minutes before the shockwave gets here.” Golfers….

I was a part of a generation of school-aged kids who were sold the bill of goods that sitting under our desks with a book over our heads would somehow save us from a nuclear fireball and that it was “better to be dead than red.” Our parents and teachers swallowed the lies too.  Civics was more propaganda than learning how our government was supposed to work. Despite the movie “Dr. Strangelove” I never learned to stop worrying and love the bomb and found other reasons to distrust world leaders.

Peter Sellers as Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove

As I read the latest news from the Ukraine, watched all the pundits telling me what we should do with Russia, especially those on social media who traded their “contagious disease” credentials for “international relations” ones. Fielding nuclear threats from Russia and threats de jour from Communist China, North Korea, or Iran, I realize that history is not only repeating itself we also maybe writing its final chapters.

Rodney King’s lament rings in my head, “Can’t we all just get along?” We haven’t for any length of time in our recorded history. Why would you think we would suddenly change?

I don’t believe that the world is anymore broken than it once was. It became broken when the first tribe picked up sticks and stones and rushed to war against another tribe. The only change is our weapons are no longer sticks and stones. Lest I forget, as I listen to the Trumps, Putins, Xi Jinpings, The Ayatollah, Jong-uns, and others, it is our voices that might be the most dangerous. Words matter despite what the old saying might tell us.

The motivations are the same. Land, safety, ideology, and religion. Water will soon be a motivation if it is not already. With the world’s vast natural resources, people starve, die of thirst, die of disease because we believe it is more important to possess than to share. We would rather allow food to rot than give it away. We would rather go to war than be benefactors. Too many national leaders have the attitude of a cuckolded lover, “If I can’t have it, no one else will.”

To the politicians of the world, beware of what you wish for. We are in dangerous times, and I don’t believe duck and cover drills, or a turtle named Bert can save us.

Source: http://www.flickr.com / x-ray_delta_one

I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t add one YouTube Video. It is from another era but quite real for millions of us.

Edwin Starr’s War.

***

Don Miller normally writes on more uplifting subjects. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1U1r59lqC_LpyqJ_duYRx-g4WH71O3bSLVbF9ql_4MFz_Pq-oy13IWkuc

His latest is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes”, more musings from a slightly insane Southerner.

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

Snow Apocalypse, Southern Style

“Snow brings a special quality with it—the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.”                 — Nancy Hatch Woodward

Ahhh, winter in the South. The first chance of snow is upon us if the weather liars are to be believed. It’s 24 degrees this morning according to my Dollar Tree thermometer. I’m guessing it could be off a degree or ten but for Southerners used to 40-degree lows, twenty-five ain’t no joke. Anyway, the coming weekend may be interesting.

The mere mention of snow sends Southerners running amok searching for bread and milk, beer, toilet paper…anything to survive the dusting of white stuff we may or may not get. There seems to be disagreement between our weather liars. We may get a dusting, or we may get twenty feet. We may get snow, sleet, freezing rain, a mix of all or nothing at all. I’ll worry if I hear they are gasin’ up the buses in Atlanta.

It is Wednesday as I write, and the apocalyptic event isn’t supposed to occur until this weekend. The end of the world is near, and I may have waited too long. You see, I really do need milk and toilet paper. I will brave Walmart’s Covid idiots later as I quest for the Holy Grail…I mean Charmin. I would go the Piggly Wiggly but I’m sure fights are breaking out there. Dollar General?

As my Southern peers run amok, they forget how to drive…not that they really knew how to drive in South Carolina in the first place. Blinker lights are a wasted option on most cars around here. Blinker lights would be Southern for turn signals. Don’t matter, most of us don’t know what they are used for anyway.

If this forecast comes to fruition the wrecker services will make a killing…that might be a poor choice of words. Southerners who can’t drive on dry pavement suddenly get the urge to go skiing in their Lexus.

Good ole boys with four-by-four pick-ups live for snow days. They will traverse the snow covered back roads, logging chains at the ready, hoping to find some poor soul to yank out of the ditch. They do it for free, just for the fun of it as if it is a Winter Olympic sport.

We’ve had major snow apocalypse events. The 1988 snowstorm that dumped seventeen inches and kept us out of school for a week. We had a VW bug and a Thunderbird and were ready to shoot holes in each other before we finally dug our way out.

In ’93 we had an ice storm that had a hurricane attached to it. We were stranded in Columbia and by the time we got back, days of temperatures in the teens and a power outage had turned my water tank into a flooding sieve. Most of my neighbors had left for the comfort of a nearby “Traveler’s Rest” …we joined them and might have been first in line at the Cracker Barrel when it opened back up.

I’ve lived in the South for seven decades and I still don’t understand Southerners when it comes to snow. Four inches of snow will shut us down quicker than Blue Laws on a Sunday in the 1950s. Most of the businesses will close as will the schools. The government shuts down, not that we would notice. All secondary roads will be deemed impassable, yet the foolish will prove that they are, in fact, impassable.

Why bread and milk? Barbeque and Jack Daniels are more suited for my taste, but I understand the fear this one-day event will somehow turn into weeks of isolation. Tales of the Donner Family spur fears of having to saw off a limb with a fingernail file and slow cooking it in the fireplace trying to stave off starvation.  I’ve been binge watching too much of the “Walking Dead.”

I know Northerners make fun of us. It is okay, just understand our snow is wet and slicker than owl poop, rarely do we get the powdery stuff. We have few snowplows and little salt for the roads, I mean we are talking about a once in a blue moon event. It is easier to stay in the house, in front of a roaring fire binge watching “The Walking Dead,” a mayonnaise sandwich in one hand and a glass of milk in the other, toilet paper stacked in the hallway.

Don Miller writes badly in many different genres. You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1Tvw-8KYL0NsHaUcJILjbYBtmfXp5TAhPHxRmTs1Z2OdN3D-A9yLds-yU

Blog image is of a typical Snow Apocalypse in the sunny South.

Blessings…

“I am tighter than a tick.  I cannot eat another bite…pecan pie you say? Well, maybe a smidge.” -quote from Thanksgiving tables across the nation

It is that time again. Belt bustin,’ pants button poppin’, asleep watchin’ the football game time. Turkey and dressing time…cornbread dressing with a lot of sage and not bread stuffing, thank you. Moist on the inside, crispy on the outside. Impossible? I take mine sans gravy.

Cranberry sauce right out of the can with the little ridges so you know where to cut it for a serving.  That was a joke, I hate cranberry sauce right out of the can even though there is a warm memory from my youth there somewhere.

My Aunt’s butterscotch pudding topped with a toasted meringue that reminds me of my mother’s butterscotch pudding that was passed down from generation to generation but went with her to her grave. Pecan pie, oh my.

My cousin Kim’s broccoli casserole, Bob’s ham, and any new dish my brother, Steve, decides to try out on us. Those bacon wrapped brussels sprouts in a balsamic vinegar reduction were dang good. My bride’s tomato pies. Yes, Thanksgiving will give me a good start on my holiday ten-pound weight increase that I don’t need.

Now if we can keep the political discussions to a minimum….

Thanksgiving and before you turn around, Christmastime…and then New Years. I hear my arteries clogging as I contemplate sausage balls washed down with alcohol laced eggnog before a drunken, snack filled evening ringing in the New Year. That is a lie, I haven’t rung in the New Year anywhere but at home in a coon’s age. Drunken? Not in forty years. I do admit that there might be a liquor drink before I kiss my bride “Happy New Year’s” …and one after.

Truth be known, I will kiss my bride “Happy New Year’s” a couple of hours ahead of time.  I am usually asleep when the New Year officially begins, and it won’t be Jack Daniels’ fault.

I hate to be a Grinch, but this is not my finest time of the year. A Grinch or a hermit? A Grinch that is a hermit. The children of Whoville are safe. I will not be coming out of the mountains to steal their presents.

The nights have grown longer, and we are still over a month away from the longest night. I feel like a mushroom and not the ones swimming in brown gravy.  SAD on top of clinical depression and the anxiety that comes with the darkness…exacerbated by the holidays.

Depression and anxiety steal your happiness and while food might be a soothing anodyne it is a placebo. Vast quantities of food and drink only covers the symptoms and does not treat the disease. To add insult to injury, I wake up the next day feeling like the Muffin Man stuffed into a sausage casing or a “blivit” which for the uneducated is ten pounds of poo stuffed into a five-pound bag…yes, more like a blivit. I get to add the guilt of a five-pound weight gain to the anxiety and depression.

No, it is not my finest time…no matter all the blessings I will receive from being around my slightly dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving, my daughter, son-in-law and two wide-eyed grandchildren at Christmas, and the Christmas elf that is my bride…but then she is just as depressed, and anxiety ridden as I am.  No, not my finest time.

Fortunately, I am a functional Grinch and with resolve will overcome my tendency to hideout in a hole somewhere. I will come down out of the foothills of the Blue Ridge and mingle, smile, sing, and of course eat. I will even have fun despite my anxiety that I will not.

The holiday season can be stressful and depressing for people who are not clinically depressed.  For those of us who are, the holiday season is exhausting…just thinking about it is exhausting. Just taking a first step is exhausting and only those who are clinically depressed understand that.

Still, the logical me knows that I am blessed. Better health than I should expect, a loving wife who is crazy enough to make things interesting. A daughter and grandbabies, my brother who is crazy funny and his wife who tolerates him. My mother’s sister and her three daughters and a grandson, the only ties to my youth that I have left. A beautiful place to live. A roof over my head, food on my table, heat…so many things we take for granted that everyone does not get to enjoy.

I’m thankful for the wonderful memories of people now gone. Friends and family who have transitioned to the stars. Friends and family who still have a place at our Thanksgiving table.

I am blessed and thankful.  Now if I can just make it back to those lengthening days of spring and summer.  Happy Thanksgiving to all, depressed, stressed out, or not.

For further Musings or a book or two go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR00sd2cXY1IYHpF0I_Di_B0IE6jQEXA4APINANulPSn2I3l9kAFT7wZaZM

Don’s latest literary masterpiece can be purchased in paperback or for download at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR00sd2cXY1IYHpF0I_Di_B0IE6jQEXA4APINANulPSn2I3l9kAFT7wZaZM