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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Florida find—lifeless legs in landfill . . .

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/jarred-mitchell-harrell-charged-in-slaying-of-7-year-old-florida-girl-somer-thompson/19416157

The following item was taken from the above URL :

ORANGE PARK, Fla. (March 26) — A 24-year-old unemployed restaurant worker was charged Friday with murder in the slaying of a 7-year-old Florida girl whose body was found in a Georgia landfill after she disappeared walking home from school, authorities said. Jarred Mitchell Harrell was charged in the death of Somer Thompson, who went missing Oct. 19. Her lifeless legs were discovered two days later in a landfill about 50 miles from Orange Park.

Lifeless legs?

Is the word lifeless used for alliterative  reasons, or perhaps used as filler to complete a newspaper column? If legs are found, regardless of where, when, why, who or how, any reader with even the paltriest particle of perceptive power will know that the legs are necessarily lifeless. Please note the foregoing lined-out phrase—it includes a four-word alliteration (paltriest particle of perceptive power), but it is unnecessary, just as is the word lifeless, the adjective used to describe the legs found in a Florida landfill.

Something else is missing from the article—was the body dismembered? At first read, one may safely assume that the girl is dead based on the word murder and the term lifeless in reference to the legs, but must we also assume that the body was dismembered? The article states only that the lifeless legs were found. Was the dismemberment of the body omitted, perhaps, in deference to the emotions of the deceased’s family? In that case, the authors of the article should have refrained from using the term gruesome in this sentence: They sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage before the gruesome find.

Quality journalism does not require such assumptions to be made. To quote Detective Joe Friday’s signature statement from Dragnet, a long defunct television show: We just want the facts, ma’m—just the facts.

A corollary to the adjective lifeless, as used in the above article, is the use of the adjective dead as applied to a human body. We never read or hear that The live body of the missing man was found today. What we read or hear is that, The missing man was found alive and well today. Conversely, we read or hear that, The dead body of the missing man was found today. Note the lined-out word in that sentence—was it needed to let the reader know that the missing man was found dead—not alive, but dead? Of course not—the word body is sufficient information.

For some of the years (too many) that I toiled in the work force, one of my co-workers was a woman for whom English was a second language. She frequently accused me of neet peeking. Well, I am not a nit picker.

I am a fault finder, and I will energetically exercise that attractive attribute to the best of my ability. Please note the three alliterative phrases in that sentence—all are unnecessary but all are self–fulfilling and space–filling (writers are sometimes paid according to the number of words used).

Enough said!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Web worms?—A return to wasp spray and self-defense . . .

This is a repost of my July 30, 2009 posting entitled On wasp spray and self-defense. That posting has languished in total darkness for some nine months, as evidenced by only two votes, although votes of excellence, and zero comments, and in the interests of full disclosure I must admit that I made the two votes of excellence. I am dragging the posting out into the bright glare of today’s Word Press readers in the hope that some will lower their expectations of finding high-brow literature and lower themselves to perusing my puny efforts to educate, advise and entertain.

On self-defense and wasp spray will follow immediately after this timely hint concerning web worms in arboreal gatherings in people’s yards.

Do you have web worms?

Not you, your trees. Do they have web worms?

If so, listen up!

Item #1: Web worms begin life as larvae and from there progress to building their very own webs with the intent of propagating their species.

Item #2: Adult wasps eat web worm larvae.

Those two items combined should not require any additional instructions on how to control web worms. Any reasonably educated and discerning reader would, on reading the two items, know how to eliminate web worms on their property, but just in case one or more are unable to figure it out, I will shout it out:

STOP KILLING WASPS!

You have my guarantee, hereby and herein written, that the web worms will disappear.

Now for the repost of my original treatise on wasps, dated 30 July, 2009:

On self-defense and wasp spray . . .

I recently received an e-mail from one of my princess daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. The e-mail included a link to an on-line movie that extolled the value of using wasp spray as a defensive weapon, a weapon that used properly might save one’s life. The movie suggests that the attackee spray the solution into the face and eyes of the attacker. Click on the following link to view the movie: movie clip

This is my response to my daughter’s e-mail:

Nice tip, thanks.

I’m going out to buy some wasp spray today. Fan #2 on the patio (counting from the east side of the patio) has (had) a wasp colony inside the motor housing. Brantley turned it on yesterday (the fan) and they swarmed out. A few got clipped with the fan blades while exiting, and to those I administered the coup de grace, which, as you know of course, is a French term meaning “a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded creature.” Several more got clipped by the fan blades when, after successfully exiting the fan housing, they attempted to reenter—most met the same fate, but they kept trying—this particular species of wasp seems to be comprised of slow learners.

I dispatched others to wherever dead wasps go by swatting them with a rolled-up copy of the San Antonio Express-News, our one daily source of “news.” The publication has undergone so many changes in size, style and content that I have been forced to find some use for it other than keeping abreast of local, national and worldwide news—the only thing that seems to have remain untouched is its commercial advertising. The publication has a pronounced tilt to the left, similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and may eventually topple unless drastic measures are taken (similar to those measures taken to shore-up the Pisa tower).

In days of long ago—in the days now shrouded in the dim mists of history, in the days when outdoor privies ruled—the paper would have taken its rightful place alongside corncobs—yes, corncobs, either red or white or both—and outdated mail-order publications such as Sears, Montgomery-Ward and J.C. Penney catalogs.

Ah, those were the days, my friends.

I believe the survivors (wasps, not newspapers) have migrated to greener pastures, but they may have taken up residence in one of the other fans—we’ll just have to wait and see. These are Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini wasps and may have just hatched out—or they could be part of a pygmy species of wasps. Could be. Maybe.

That’s pure speculation on my part—I didn’t see the Mamas and the Papas anywhere.

Oh, by the way, although the video didn’t cover this part it could be that, in addition to possibly saving one’s life some day, a handy can of wasp spray might some day save one’s birdhouse—it could happen.

No, one’s birdhouse does not refer to any particular body part, or parts, of any bipedal primate in the homo sapien family, neither male nor female. It refers to a type of housing comprised of various materials assembled in various architectural styles, having been constructed with the intention of attracting and sheltering various species of avian creatures whilst they (the birds) go about the important business of procreating their particular species. However, as an afterthought I must confess that if the phrase one’s birdhouse were used to refer to any particular body part, it would probably refer to the female of the species rather than the male.

Note: The word whilst is not misspelled—its spelling is accurate but archaic and is usually restricted to poems. The whilst spelling (and pronunciation) of the word prevails in England, but has pretty well died out in the United States. In my opinion, humble though it may be, whilst is used in the U.S. by persons who also say amongst, unbeknownst and dreampt, all archaic and poetical, and all of which are used purposefully to attract attention—much in the manner of birdhouses.

A prologue to my e-mail:

A colony of yellow jackets (insects, not cheerleaders) established residence in my daughter’s garden birdhouse and one of them, for whatever reason, saw fit to sting her on her aft side, somewhere below the waist and between the hips. The unprovoked attack sent her scrambling into the safety of the house. Because she felt that another attack was highly predictable, she arranged to have the birdhouse consigned, with the yellow jackets extant, to the nearest dumpster. They are probably now feeding voraciously in a local landfill, and may morph into giant yellow jackets and instinctively home-in and return to their previous location.

Bummer.

So, as can readily be seen, had a can of wasp spray been available it might have saved that birdhouse.

And one final thought concerning the possible effectiveness of wasp spray when used as a defense mechanism—if it works on wasps it should be just as effective when used on any attacker, whether the attacker is a a yellow jacket, a wasp, a WASP or any other person, regardless of color, national heritage or religious preference.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in education, Humor, Writing

 

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How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.00 . . .

Everyone knows that corn grows on stalks. The stalks grow tall, often even taller than some of our NBA players, and with good growing conditions produce numerous ears of corn. I imagine that the term ears is used because each ear grows angled upward on the perpendicular stalk at about 45 degrees, somewhat similar to our ears. Ears of corn that are removed while still green are harvested for the purpose of roasting, and are therefore referred to as roasting ears. Country folks in my era called them rosnears, a useful contraction of roasting ears that allows more words in a sentence, whether written or spoken. Many country folks still use that contraction.

An ear of corn, as removed from the stalk, is completely covered with overlapping leaves. That covering is called a corn shuck, or simply a shuck. Rosnears are roasted in their shucks. When done, the shuck is removed, butter and salt if desired are added to the ear of cornand I do desire butter and saltand the corn is eaten directly from the cob. The cob is the cylindrical core of the ear of corn, the part to which the kernels of corn are attached. The eating process is referred to as eating corn on the cob—I’ve always felt that it would more properly be called eating corn off the cob. In either case the taste is heavenly and the process is devilishly messy—one should keep a napkin close at hand while eating corn on the cob—or off the cob, as the case may be.

And just in case anyone wonders about the origin of the term rough as a cob. When dried corn is shelled from the cob, the small depressions left by the kernels being removed leaves the cob rough to the touch. Way back in the dim mists of antiquity, in a time when folks had limited access to manufactured toilet tissue, various substitutes were used—magazine pages, Sears Roebuck catalog pages, old letters and envelopes, outdated calendars, straw, oak leaves or whatever could be found in a time of need. Dried corn cobs were in plentiful supply following the corn harvest, and I am witness to the fact that rough as a cob is as accurately definitive as a definition can get.

Ah, those were the days!

Allow me to digress for a moment: I have gone into considerable detail so far in this posting. The reason is because legions of people in our country, particularly younger generations, have no idea how corn is grown, harvested, prepared and cooked, nor do they know the terminology of the various uses of corn. Their knowledge is often restricted to the purchase and ingestion of popcorn in our movie theaters. In addition to the ridiculous cost of tickets to the movies, movie goers pay ridiculous prices for the popcorn, and the beat goes on.

And trust me—not even one in a thousand of today’s youngsters know the origin of rough as a cob. Perhaps this posting will spread the word, so to speak, and let younger generations know that old times were not romantic at all times.

For purposes other than roasting ears, corn is allowed to remain on the stalk until the green stalks and shucks turn brown, and then the corn is harvested by giant machines that harvest multiple rows at the same time. It hasn’t always been that way—before the invention and use of such harvesters, each ear of corn was pulled from the stalk by hand. A sharp pull downward at the correct angle would snap the ear off at the stalk.

I can speak with authority because I’ve done it—ear by ear, stalk by stalk, row by row, hour after hour and day after day until the field was stripped. The hand pulled ears were dropped on the ground between the rows and later loaded on a skid for movement to the barn for storage. Yes, Virginia, a skid—a primitive conveyance fitted with runners similar to those of a sled. A skid was a flat wooden platform mounted on wooden runners, with sides forming a box to contain such items as corn, or any other items that needed to be transported in bulk. The skid was powered by a mule, a tall long-eared beast of burden with a sour disposition and a proclivity to bite, depending on its mood and the task with which it was confronted.

Let’s see—I’ve covered pulling corn, so now on to shucking corn. This is easily done—one needs grasp the ear near the stem with one hand, then start peeling the leaves of the shuck downwards with the other hand, and when the leaves are all pulled away from the ear, simply snap the stem to separate the shuck from the ear of corn. Got it?

And finally, on to the tale of the four dollars I earned by shucking corn. Christmas was near, and I needed money to buy presents for my mother and my sister. One of my aunts that lived on a farm nearby asked me if I wanted to earn some money. I answered in the affirmative, but made a serious mistake by not inquiring into what my efforts would earn. The job turned out to be corn shucking—removing the shucks to prepare the corn to be milled—ground—into corn meal.

Picture this: Two farm wagons were loaded with corn to be shucked, rounded in the center to a level a bit higher than the sides of the wagon box. Each wagon box measured approximately four by ten by one foot deep. A quick computation of length x width x depth shows that each wagon had forty cubic feet of corn, a total of eighty cubic feet for both wagons. I was paid a whopping total of four dollars for a full two long days work. I worked without gloves, so by the time I finished I had blisters on top of my blisters. I did not question my pay or grumble about it, at least not out loud. I reasoned rightly that I now had four dollars where before I had no dollars—I took the four ones, gave thanks to my aunt and left to find some cool water for my hands.

That’s it—I’ve covered the three subjects in the title of How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.oo, so I’ll close this posting.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Gardening, Humor, Travel

 

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The littlest one there . . .

An important note for anyone that visits this posting: This story is a matter of record. It is copyrighted, and any unapproved use of it may bring legal action against the user.

The Littlest One There

Rocky Raccoon and Roxanne Raccoon
live in a tree behind a big house.
The house has a back yard.
And the back yard has a fence.

One night Rocky Raccoon came down from the tree.
He climbed the fence.
He jumped from the fence into the back yard.


And Roxanne Raccoon came down from the tree.
She climbed the fence.
She jumped from the fence into the back yard.
Rocky and Roxanne were very hungry.

In that yard is a big house and a little house.
Two animals live in the little house.
A cat named Tee lives there.
She has big shiny eyes.
Rocky calls her Terrible Tee.
A dog named Heidi lives there.
She makes loud noises.
Rocky calls her Horrible Heidi.

Horrible Heidi and Terrible Tee have lots of food.
They sleep in their little house at night.
But when they hear a noise they come out of their little house.

Terrible Tee makes her eyes shine very bright.
And Horrible Heidi makes lots of noise.

Four people live in the big house.
Debbie is the mommy.
Bill is the daddy.
Lauren is the big sister.
And Landen is her little brother.

On that night Rocky and Roxanne were eating the food.
Horrible Heidi came out of the little house.
She made lots of noise.

Terrible Tee came out of the little house.
She made her eyes shine very bright.

Then all of the people in the big house came out.
They saw Rocky and Roxanne eating the food.

Mother danced around and shouted at Rocky and Roxanne.
Father began babbling about Rocky and Roxanne eating the food.
Big sister laughed and laughed at her mother and father.

Little brother just ran around being the littlest one there.


So Rocky called mommy Dancing Debbie.

He called daddy Babbling Bill.

He called big sister Laughing Lauren.

And he called Landen Littlest Landen.


On the first night Rocky and Roxanne did not eat enough.

And they were still hungry.

But on this night they ate all the food.

Because Terrible Tee did not come out of the little house.

She did not make her eyes shine.

And Horrible Heidi did not come out of the little house.

She did not make lots of noise.


And none of the people came out of the big house.

Dancing Debbie did not come out of the big house and dance.

Babbling Bill did not come out of the big house and babble.

Laughing Lauren did not come out of the big house and laugh.

And Littlest Landen did not come out of the big house and run around.

But he kept on being the littlest one there.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Books, Childhood, Family, Humor, pets, Writing

 

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Snipe hunting—a tale retold . . .

From wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipe_hunt

A snipe hunt, a form of wild-goose chase that is also known as a fool’s errand, is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. Incidentally, the snipe  (a family of shorebirds) is difficult to catch for experienced hunters, so much so that the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.

In the most popular version of the snipe hunt, especially in the American South, a newcomer is taken deep into the woods late at night and told to make a clucking noise while holding a large sack. The others, who are in on the joke, say that they will sneak away and then walk back towards the newcomer, thereby driving snipes towards the bag holder. The frightened snipes, they say, will be attracted to the clucking noise and be easily caught in the bag. The newcomer is then simply left in the dark forest, holding the bag, to eventually realize his gullibility and find his way home or back to camp.

What follows is my posting dated June 21, 2009. Click here to read the original.

Age 13—banished from Boy Scouts of America . . .

Long, long ago in another century, having completed 16 years of life and in my seventeenth year, I told a little white lie concerning my age and enlisted in the Army National Guard of the sovereign state of Mississippi. My reason for enlisting was purely selfish—members reported for training one day each month on a Saturday. We dressed in one-piece fatigues, combat boots and fatigue cap, all of which (except for the cap) were far too big for me, and were paid $10 each for our attendance and efforts.

Big money.

My enlistment lasted for one month and 23 days, and then I resigned so I could enlist in the United States Air Force. I told a big non-white lie about my age, a lie which was duly sworn to by me, my mother and the recruiting sergeant (I was still six months short of 17, the age at which enlistment was permitted with parental consent).

A whole set of circumstances prompted that enlistment, not the least of which was the starting salary—$72.50 per month, with a guarantee of promotion from Private to Private First-class after only 13 weeks of training, providing, of course, that  I successfully completed the training. That promotion would include a pay raise of $2.50 per month for a grand total of $75 per month.

Don’t laugh—housing, food, clothing and the opportunity to see the world (after learning a trade) would all be  free.

Sweet!

But I digress—back to my truncated tour of duty in the Boy Scouts of America:

Just three years before I became a member of America’s fighting forces at age 16, I became a member of the Boy Scouts of America at age 13 in a small town (pop. 2,500) in Mississippi. I was the new kid on the block, and the Scoutmaster of the local Boy Scout troop invited me to join his group. Lured by the promise of adventure, companionship, and the opportunity to learn all sorts of useful crafts and how to survive in the wilderness, I unhesitatingly signed up.

My membership in the state’s Boy Scouts of America chapter lasted even less time than my membership in the state’s National Guard—I was a Boy Scout for one month—just one month, and I was given the boot, ejected with malice and aforethought. Had the Boy Scouts of America been giving dishonorable discharges, I would have received one.

In two short weeks after I joined the Boy Scouts of America, my fascination with that organization had soured, and I was not one to keep discontent bottled up inside. When things went awry in my life, I complained. One shining example of my treatment in the troop, and of my penchant to complain, was a boxing event scheduled by the Scoutmaster, an exercise ostensibly intended to teach us self-defense and proper sportsmanship.

The Scoutmaster divided the troop into pairs, and coupled me with a boy roughly twice my big—older, taller and heavier than I. After my opponent landed several hard blows in the first round (I landed none), I stepped out of the ring. Actually, I stepped across the ring’s perimeter—it was a square marked by a chalk line drawn on the floor. Once safely outside the ring and out of my opponent’s reach, I stated forcefully and emphatically that I was quitting (the fight, not the troop). When I made known my reluctance to continue the fight and my decision to concede, I included some improper language concerning the event. That language was in reference to my opponent and to the obvious lack of fairness in the selection of sparring partners, and was applied forcefully and impartially to my opponent and the Scoutmaster.

The improper language was properly addressed by the Scoutmaster. He admonished me on my behavior, my language and my obvious lack of sportsmanship, and told me that my tenure in the troop depended on my future performance. His lecture was delivered forcefully and loudly in full sight and sound of my erstwhile opponent and the rest of the troop.

Bummer.

Two weeks later the troop went on a 12-mile hike (six miles out, six miles back) to a nature area for an overnight stay. We started our trek early on Saturday morning and reached our destination several hours later, with stops along the way so the Scoutmaster could lecture us on local flora and fauna.For much of the trek we traveled at the Boy Scout pace—10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, 10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, etc.

We arrived at the nature area and established our camp near a small lake, where we  were scheduled for a morning swim the next day before setting out on our return hike to civilization. The rest of the day was devoted to hikes along well-established trails, with the Scoutmaster pointing out items of interest—with explanations such as these:

“This is a pine tree, and these are pine cones.”

“This is an oak tree, and these are acorns.”

“This is a turtle.”

The turtle comment was prompted when one of the Scouts spotted a species of reptile idling along near the trail. I knew it was a land-based tortoise, but being fully aware that I was in enough trouble already, I wisely kept that knowledge to myself.

Near nightfall while returning to our camp, we encountered a remarkably lethargic full-grown Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake lying in the trail. It was a creature of heroic proportions—our Scoutmaster properly identified the snake thusly: “This is a rattlesnake, and its bite is deadly poisonous.” He explained that since snakes are nocturnal and hunt for food at night, this one was probably still digesting his catch of the night before.

He then efficiently and effectively killed the snake, consigned it to the bushes beside the trail so later passersby would not be alarmed by the sight of a dead rattlesnake lying in the trail—a very thoughtful and solicitous person, our Scoutmaster.

At the time my sympathies were with the rattlesnake, but considering an event that transpired later that night I came to appreciate and even admire—nay, I came to bless—the Scoutmaster for his actions.

Read on:

For our evening meal we had an open fire over which we burned, and feasted on, wieners and marshmallows. At a late hour, near midnight, one of the older boys asked if any of us wanted to go snipe hunting. I innocently declared that I had never heard of snipe hunting—as a result of my innocence, I was selected to straddle a ditch in the woods and hold open a burlap bag, and the other boys would spread out and drive any snipe in the area in my direction. I was told that the snipe would be moving very fast, and that I would feel them when they hit the inside of the bag. When I felt them hit, I was to close the bag and return to camp with my catch.

I straddled the ditch, held the bag open and listened to the others shouting and shaking limbs to get the snipe moving in my direction. I held my position and the bag firmly as the noises  faded into the distance and for several hours after that. I held my position and that damn bag into the wee small hours of the morning, until I finally realized, and accepted, the fact that I had been had, thoroughly and severely.

And during all that time I kept my head on a swivel with my eyes and ears wide open, looking and listening for rattlesnakes, deadly poisonous creatures that search for food during the hours of darkness, knowledge that I had gleaned—and retained—from the Scoutmaster’s lecture a few hours earlier. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, with deductive powers, I deduced that their food could possibly include a Boy Scout, especially one of diminutive size.

When I returned to camp all the others were asleep.

I awoke the next morning to an empty camp and footprints all over my opened backpack, a container that had sheltered my breakfast, a meal that should have included bread, bacon and fresh eggs—and would have except for the fact that the eggs were smashed and the bacon and bread slices were in the dirt. I could faintly hear the shouts and laughter of my fellow scouts—my friends—down at the lake, enjoying a morning swim after a hearty breakfast, one which I slept through because of my late return to camp.

Please be patient—I’m almost to the end of this tragic tale.

I arose, dressed, tinkled into the smoldering campfire ashes (I felt that as a Boy Scout, it was my solemn duty to do my best to prevent forest fires) and started a search for the dead rattlesnake. I found it, took it by the tail and dragged it, unseen behind me, down to the water’s edge near the dock. All my fellow scouts—my friends—were in the water and none paid any attention to me as I walked down the slope.

When I got to the water’s edge I began whirling the dead snake around over my head, and when I had it moving fast I shouted, “Snake!” and loosed the rattler toward the largest group of Boy Scouts in the water. The snake scored a direct hit, a splash-down right in the middle of the group. The boys scattered in all directions, some swimming for the dock, some for the bank, and some for open water—one boy put his head down and frantically thrashed toward the dock, sporting a rooster tail as he swam. He neglected to raise his head to take his bearings and crashed into the dock, opening a nice gash in his scalp as a result of his negligence.

When we left the nature area the Scoutmaster would not allow me to march with the troop for the return trip—I was banished to the rear of the formation and ordered to “stay there and eat dust.” That was no problem for me—I hated that routine of running ten steps, then walking ten steps, etc., etc. The troop stuck to the routine and trotted out of my sight long before we reached town.

On our return to town I was drummed out of the Boy Scouts unceremoniously, without being accorded the entertaining formalities used by old-time military commanders and depicted in Hollywood western movies.

Picture this:

John Wayne standing stiffly at attention with his commanding officer ripping off epaulets, stripes, shoulder patches, sleeve patches showing years of service and service overseas, and the chest-full of medals and decorations Wayne had earned by fighting the deadly redskins, all witnessed by the entire company, and then his hip-twitching slow walk out of the fort as the massive gates were swung open for his exit, away from the fort, the U. S. Army and his long-time fighting companions and into whatever the future might hold in store for him, all accompanied by the sonorously sad beat of the drum.

No, I had not earned the privilege of being officially drummed out of the Service—I was simply told, “You’re out. Don’t come back.”

No explanation was necessary—I knew very well why I was no longer a Boy Scout. In retrospect, I rationalized that I never really wanted to be a Boy Scout anyway—after all, I was invited to join in the beginning, and I succumbed to pressure exerted by the Scoutmaster and a few of my peers.

I was innocent—the fault was theirs.

That’s it—my enlistment in the Boy Scouts lasted only one month, three weeks short of my stint in the Mississippi National Guard. I earned no merit badges, not one, didn’t even come close to earning one. I earned no diplomas, received no recognition (other than the Scoutmaster’s acknowledgment of my nefarious activities). I never had an opportunity to assist a little old lady across the street or splint a bird’s broken wing or start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and I never had a prayer of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

Joke:

Wanna know how to start a fire in the wilderness?

Rub two Boy Scouts together.

Sorry about that and I apologize, but it’s out of my control. I can’t help it—it’s in my nature.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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A third-grade cutie and chocolate-covered cherries . . .

She was one year behind me in elementary school. I first became aware of her in my fourth year of elementary school and from that point on I stalked her, all the way through the sixth grade. A blue-eyed blond with a curvaceous figure, long pigtails and bowed legs, she was always smiling and skipping instead of walking—that may, perhaps, have accounted for the bowed legs. I did not consider her figure to be curvaceous at the time, did not in fact know the word. I just thought she was really, really, really cute, and the curvaceous thought came along in later years.

Her older sister was one of my classmates through elementary school. I pined for the older girl from the first grade to the fourth, then in that year I became aware of her blond sister in the third grade. I guess I liked younger girls, even at that early age, and I was hooked—my pining for the older sister ended abruptly.

Oddly enough, my fourth-grade class learned the song, “My darling Clementine” that year, right after I noticed the cute little blond in the third grade. That song relates the death of Clementine, a girl that lived “in a cavern, in a canyon” with her father, a “miner, forty-niner, excavating for a mine.”

According to the song, this is how Clementine perished:

Drove she ducklings to the water,

Every morning just at nine,

Struck her foot against a splinter,

Fell into the foaming brine.

Ruby lips above the water,

Blowing bubbles mighty fine,

But alas, she was no swimmer,

So I lost my Clementine.

How I missed her, how I missed her,

How I missed my Clementine,

But I kissed her little sister,

And forgot my Clementine.

When I heard the line that said “But I kissed her little sister,” I knew God had smiled down on me and cleared my path to a heaven on earth—all I needed now was to make my case to the little sister.

I never did. She never knew how I felt. I just hung around where she happened to be and stared at her. I never even sat beside her at the picture show—yes, we called it the picture show. The term movie was not in vogue in those days. But I did sit as close as I could without appearing conspicuous. I would actually take the seat directly behind her and stare lovingly at the back of her head, only occasionally leaning to the right or the left in order to see the screen. She was always cordial, always said “Hi!” when we met, but she never invited me to sit beside her and I was too scared to ask. Had I asked and been rejected, my life would have been over—I could never have recovered, and I was not willing to take that chance.

For a period of several months we lived in the same neighborhood. I lived in the house on one corner of the block, and her house was on the other corner on the same side of the street. She played with her friends and I played with mine, and except for school days we were rarely in the same area.

I believe that I have explained the third-grade cutie phrase in the title to this posting, so now I’ll get to the chocolate-covered cherries. I somehow acquired a whopping total of forty cents, cash, to be spent on anything my heart desired, and my heart desired a one-pound box of chocolate-covered cherries, a gift for Clementine’s sister, the “blue-eyed blond with a curvaceous figure, long pigtails and bowed legs” that lived at the end of my block.

I don’t remember whether there was any occasion involved—I suppose it could have been Christmas or someone’s birthday, or Valentine’s Day or some other significant day. I bought the cherries, took the box home and stared at it for a couple of days, then at high noon on a Saturday I took it to the house on the corner, placed it on the porch near the front door, rang the doorbell and ran like hell.

I never looked back. I never knew whether anyone was home at the time, whether the doorbell was answered, whether the door was opened, whether the box was picked up by her or by a family member, or by someone that just happened to stroll by, and seeing a perfectly good box of chocolate-covered cherries lying on the porch, purloined it and slithered away into some dark recess and glutton-like devoured all the candy. No one from either end of the street ever mentioned the chocolate-covered cherries incident, and life went on as before. It may perhaps be hard to believe, but I’ve wished, many times, that I had eaten them myself.

After elementary school I saw Clementine’s sister only one more time. I was home on leave from the military service and I took a nostalgic drive past the school where I attended junior high and high school. She walked across the street directly in front of me and I turned my head so far to watch her that I got a crick in my neck and damn near wrecked my car.

Now for an anti-climatic disclaimer: When I was twenty-years old I met, fell in love with and married a Georgia peach, a blue eyed blond with a curvaceous figure, but no pigtails and no bowed legs. We are well into our 58th year of marriage and are still in love—and the beat goes on.

I neither dwell nor dote on my memories—I had to do a lot of remembering to recall the specifics of the chocolate-covered cherries for this posting, and the walk down memory lane was interesting, but I neither regret nor wonder about what might have been.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor

 

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Parched peanuts and skin crawling . . .

In the fall of my sixteenth year I lived with a farm family in the rural western central area of Alabama. Their farm was one of the Reconstruction era land parcels that were passed out after the end of the Civil War. It originally consisted of 40 acres and a mule, and in 1948, having passed down through some four generations (not of the same family, of course), still boasted the same 40 acres and a mule—not the same mule but one that, without a doubt, remarkably resembled the original, with the same long ears and same surly disposition, but with the same desirable work traits.

The family was comprised of four souls—the wife (my first cousin), the husband (not related to me or to his wife, other than by marriage) and two sons, both under the age of five years. My mother had decided that it would be beneficial for me to live with them and help out around the house and the 40 acres, and in return for that help the family would house me, feed me, clothe me and educate me.

Such a deal!

I arrived on the farm with a small metal trunk, a pitifully small amount of clothing and a pedigreed  pit bulldog named Buster, a fine and faithful companion, registered with the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, the original owner, had named him Buster. I inherited Buster when my brother returned to active duty with the U. S. Army after an absence of several years. My trunk, my dog and I joined the family on the farm in September after the school term had begun.

No mention was made of my being enrolled in the eleventh grade, and I happily maintained my silence. The helping out, however, began immediately. A trip to the nearest town some five miles distant to a dry goods store outfitted me with two pairs of overalls—one pair to wear and one pair to spare, and a pair of sturdy work shoes known as brogans. Some folks referred to them as clodhoppers, and some applied the same term to the wearers of such shoes. Perhaps some of my readers are unfortunate enough to have never worn overalls and therefore may be unfamiliar with such garments. If that be the case, those readers can click here for a detailed description. That posting also tells a story featuring a blue-eyed snake.

And now to my original reason for this posting, namely the parching of peanuts and situations related thereto. The term parched in regard to peanuts may be unfamiliar to some—perhaps roasted would be a more familiar term. On many cool fall evenings and cold winter evenings, the family gathered around an open fireplace and ate parched peanuts. The peanuts, having dried since harvested, were placed on a shallow metal roasting pan and roasted in the shell in the kitchen stove oven, and afterward the pan was placed on the fireplace hearth to keep the peanuts warm and accessible. One needed only to scoop up a handful of peanuts, then sit back, shell and enjoy.

The lady of the house, my first cousin, had a habit of rustling among the peanuts searching for those with scorched shells, saying that they had more flavor. Her moving the peanuts around on metal, with her fingernails sometimes coming in contact with the metal, produced a really irritating sound, one that, as the saying goes, made one’s flesh crawl, a phenomenon that I communicated to my cousin.

I told her that I wished she wouldn’t do that, and she said, “Why not?’ And I took the bait she offered—nay, I took the bait and hook and line and sinker. I said, “Because it makes my flesh crawl.” Her immediate response was, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?”

Bummer!

Pretty funny, huh? I plotted and schemed for the next several weeks, doing anything and everything I could to produce a sound that would make her flesh crawl, and I finally hit on one. I was cleaning a mirror—voluntarily, and by briskly rubbing the clean glass I made a loud screeching sound and she reacted as I hoped she would. She told me to stop doing that, and I asked her the same question she had asked me. I said “Why?” and she predictably said that it made her flesh crawl.

Oh, boy, oh boy! I said, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?” She snapped back, “It smelled like it had been licked—how did it taste?”

Bummer again!

I left the family and the farm in late December and traveled some 35 miles by bus to visit my mother and sister in Mississippi. I returned early in January, and en route on my two-mile walk on the graveled road from the paved highway to the farm, I stopped to visit an aunt that lived in the house of my birth. She told me that my cousin’s husband had killed my dog soon after I left for Mississippi.

None of the family was home when I arrived. I packed my belongings and started dragging the trunk  back to the paved highway to wait for the next interstate bus. Luckily a neighboring farmer came along in his Model T Ford and gave me and my trunk a ride to the highway—had he not come by I would probably still be walking—that trunk was pretty heavy, what with the brogans and overalls.

There was a reason my cousin’s husband killed my dog—not a reasonable reason—but I’ll save it for a later posting of some of my exploits—and my exploitation—while playing the part of a farm boy. I have never been back to the house since that day, and I never saw the husband or the two boys again. I trust that they fared well and are still faring well—unless they grew up to be like their father.

I know he died many years ago, but I never knew how the boys may have fared in their lives. Many years later I saw my cousin briefly, just long enough to learn that she had divorced her husband  shortly after I left, and a few years later met and bonded closely—I mean, like really closely—with another woman and eventually became a suicide, taking her own life with a firearm. I don’t know how the other woman fared, nor am I curious about it.

There are many more titillating, interesting, educational, emotional, humorous and fascinating tales I will tell concerning my brief sojourn as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm, but I’ll save them for later postings.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, Writing

 

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