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Category Archives: grammar

Listen up, Rachel Maddow—learn your possessives!

I voluntarily submitted myself to the excruciating torture of watching your show yesterday, June 3, 2011 and during your coverage of John Edwards’ current trials and tribulations I started counting the times you mispronounced John Edwards’ name. When you needed to show possession, without a single exception you pronounced his name as Edwardses, and somewhere around twenty I stopped counting, primarily because I ran out of fingers and toes.

Please note that I did not use an apostrophe in the word Edwardses in that last sentence—it’s impossible for a listener to detect the presence or the absence of an apostrophe in such usage. It may or may not have been present in the mind-numbing number of times you voiced it. With an apostrophe the word Edwards’es, or Edwards’s, is a violation of English usage—without an apostrophe Edwardses is a good word, forming the plural of the Edwards family, as in The Edwardses embarked on a family vacation aboard the Queen Elizabeth—I refer to the ocean liner, of course, not to the current royal monarch.

And no, in answer to the question that is probably forming in your mind one would not, or at least should not, identify the entire family as the Edwardss—the plural requires the es—that’s what makes it plural. Got it?

The es added to Edwards tells us that the whole famn damily went on vacation aboard the QE2. Based on that example, I would hazard a guess that each time you used the term it would be spelled thusly—Edwards’es—but I could be wrong. Words that end in an s are made possessive by the addition of an apostrophe only, not by an apostrophe and s, nor by the addition of an apostrophe and es.

Jumping Jehosaphat, Rachel! Even Sarah Palin knows that! If you were reading a teleprompter last night, I suggest that you fire the worker that compiled it, and if you were winging it I urge you to enroll in English 101—both you and your viewers will profit.

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

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Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

The world is in turmoil, and our country is currently in the midst of an upheaval caused by a never-ending battle waged by conservatives on one side and on the other side liberals, NOW, communists, fascists, Muslims, progressives, Nazis, abolitionists, various ethnic and racial minorities including blacks and Hispanics, many of the Jewish persuasion, unions, gays, and those that are vertically challenged—short people.

I have, at great length over a considerable period of time, closely observed and analyzed the current problems in the world, problems such as the revolutions underway in the Middle East and in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and potentially in every state not governed by a conservative, and the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Yes, Iraq—anyone that believes the war in Iraq is over is taking the proverbial head in the sand stance attributed to the ostrich, or better still, everyone that believes the war is over has their heads up their collective—sorry, the rest of that phrase escapes me. People in Iraq continue to die by the dozens from explosives-laden vests worn and detonated by morons anxious to meet the seventy-two virgins promised by their religion—die by the dozens has a nice alliterative ring, don’t you think?

At this point I must digress in order to inform my viewers, in the unlikely event that they are unaware that there are only 72 virgins available in the heavenly beyond, that it is not simply a matter of first come, first served, because all arrivals are served—or serviced, so to speak—equally. The same 72 are used by all, but it is written that regardless of the frequency with which those ladies are ravished, they remain chaste—ain’t that a hoot!

I have also considered the plethora of medical problems that plague mankind, problems such as malaria, HIV, AIDS and ingrown toenails, and class warfare and nature’s calamities such as tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, forest fires and the plight of the Snail Darter and the Blind Salamander and the host of other threatened fauna and flora species in our country and across the globe, including Atractosteus spatula calico magna, the snaggle-toothed alligator gar found only in southern states, primarily Mississippi—okay, okay, I admit that I made up the snaggle-toothed part—oh, okay, I made up the entire name—well, most of it anyway.

Having given so much consideration to so many problems, I have selected one, and only one, to discuss on WordPress. It’s one that I can discuss with certainty, and perhaps in some way, in some measure, change the course of that problem and relieve at least one of the many adverse conditions that plague civilization, specifically our supposedly civilized English-speaking nations—please note the four-syllable construction of the word supposedly—I will explain that construction in the next paragraph. The following statement explains the problem I have with the way many people pronounce supposed: The word has only two syllables—not three!

Only two syllables but many, perhaps most, talking heads on television, whether guests or hosts, pronounce the word sup-pos-ed with three syllables. Those people are supposedly well educated, erudite even—at this point please note that the adverb form of the verb suppose has four syllables—sup pos ed ly—but that construction is not a problem—everyone gets that one right.

Many of those people pronouncing the word supposed with three syllables are attorneys, graduates of ivy league universities, many with PHDs, high ranking government officials whether elected or appointed, priests, teachers and school administrators and a multitude of others from every walk of life, people that emulate the pronunciation of the word by people they admire, believing that if they use that pronunciation it must be right, coming from such a supposedly erudite group—and once again there’s that four-syllable construction of the word.

In my survey of the pronunciation of the word by talking heads on cable television, I found those folks on Fox News to be the most frequent offenders, including the gaggle of attorneys that appear on that channel. That’s a real mystery for me—all of them certainly have at least one college degree, and many have several. I will, grudgingly, give Glenn Beck a pass on mispronunciation of supposed because he is not a graduate of any so-called higher institution of learning.

In previous posts I have mentioned a lady that I have known for many years, a lady for whom English is a second language. Her native language will become apparent by my saying that she pronounced the English letter I as an E, thus the term nit picker came across as neet peeker—I suppose it could have been worse in some other foreign language, coming across as neat pecker, for example, or perhaps as gnat pecker.

I mention that lady only because there is a slight possibility that one or more of my viewers may consider me to be nit picking in my effort to educate the public to the correct pronunciation of the word supposed when used as an adjective, as in the term the supposed murderer, or the supposed philanderer, etc.

I am neither neet peeking nor nit picking—my efforts in this venue are similar to the ever ongoing search for the Holy Grail, the vessel from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and comparable to the search for the Golden Fleece, the fleece of a golden-haired winged ram that was the offspring of the sea god Poseidon, the fleece that was so long and so arduously sought by Jason and his band of Argonauts.

The same people that pronounce the word supposed with three syllables also pronounce the two-syllable word alleged with three syllables, as in al-ledge-ed. I suppose I should make that a separate post, but I won’t bother—it wouldn’t make any difference anyway. May the Grand Protector of Syllables forgive them—I won’t!

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

 

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Revisited: Be aware—be very aware . . .

Readers of this post will note that I discuss, in some detail, the star rating system provided by WordPress. Readers will also note, just in case they wanted to vote, that the voting system is not available, neither for this post nor for any others on my blog. It is not available because a reader rated one of my literary efforts with a vote somewhere less than five stars—four stars, perhaps, but also perhaps only one star. I removed the rating system because I feel that if someone does not like an entry, they should tell why they believe it rates less than five stars, and not hide in the bushes and take pot shots at a blogger. If a reader is not satisfied with an entry on WordPress, then that reader should use the comment feature to criticize. I can only speak for myself, but if the criticism is valid and expressed in good taste, I will cheerfully approve it and cheerfully respond to it. Well, perhaps not so cheerfully, but I will respond, and that response will be in good taste.

As the title indicates, this is a revisit to a previous post—the original is as follows:

Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”–G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network that claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a>

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars—to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position. Could it possibly be that the voting system reflects the the far right, far left and center positions on our political scale?

I report, you decide.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the first A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and aware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

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

Postscript: Since posting this dissertation I have deleted, from all my postings, the counter that allowed viewers to vote on the content and quality of my postings. I took this action because a viewer, perhaps more than one viewer, cast something less than a vote of excellence—less than five stars.

 

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How about an E for effort?

The following literary effort is presented exactly as I found it in my ramblings online—not a single letter, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, sentence construction, paragraphing or subject-to-object relationship has been changed.

I’m sharing this work with my readers because I consider it to be a teachable moment, not for my erudite followers but for those less erudite that may find their way to my blog. I cannot tell whether the author of this effort is male, female, both or neither.  However, I can tell that the work as literature violates virtually every rule in every How to Write Effectively manual ever published and every one that will ever be published.

The writing is presented below, just as I found it online:

Yesterday I read that in every January, the last seven days week’s Monday is the worst day of the year. This year it was 25th of January, yesterday. The most of my classmates said that it was really a bad day, but mine was pretty good. I felt good, I got good marks. But today? I was totally luckless. I burnt myself twice time, I felt kinda miserable, because of how I look like and how I dress; I don’t know why, but on chemic lesson my classmates wanted to spell homosexual on my “to-do diary”, it can be that I misunderstood something, but It has less chance. And to top this day, after having a great time with my friend (we baked, and it is delicious), I log on to Yahoo, and I got an offline message from the girl who have feelings for me: would you be my wife? and a “please” smiley. Wtf? Should I think that somehow she recognized my sexual identity by observing me? Because when I gave it a thought, I realized that the happiness I’ve been feeling all the days for a long time now, could be related to not wearing the mask all day long.

Edit: Problems solved. She only wrote it because my status was “baking and washing the dishes” so she felt like proposing, because I would make a perfect wife 😛 Well I hope I will! XDD

My conclusions regarding the work, just in the improbable event that anyone is interested in my conclusions:

In closing, I feel that this work—no, no, not my work, the work I found online—defies the usual alphabet scale of A, B, C, D and F, and neither do the scales of Pass/Fail, Good/Bad or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory adequately apply.

I will happily give the author of the work a resounding E for Effort—a heartfelt Hear, Hear, a You go, girl—without regard to her or his or their sexual preferences or physical characteristics. At least he or she or they is/are trying, striving to communicate feelings and emotions to those both inside and outside his/ hers or their personal boundaries. Far too many of us for a multitude of reasons, not one of which is legitimate, refuse to make an effort to write—we are the ones that deserve the Fs and the Fail, Bad and Unsatisfactory grades.

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

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in education, grammar, Humor, marriage, Writing

 

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Revisited: An historic event? Oh, puhleeze!

Listen up, Fox News—there is no such thing as an historic event, an historical moment, an history book or an history teacher—they do not exist. There are such things as a historic event, a historical moment, a history book and a history teacher. As regards the proper—versus improper—use of a and an relative to preceding words beginning with an h, I made my opinion known to my adoring readers back in February of this year, and I am now generously bringing that opinion up from the Stygian darkness of past postings and into the bright light of today, and once again sending it up the flagpole in an effort to get someone—anyone, but especially the brilliant news readers and personal opinion sharers on Fox News—to salute it. Yes, I know that I used an preceding the h in  the previous sentence, but there are always exceptions to a rule—that phrase, an h, is one of two exceptions that immediately come to mind. The other exception is an hour—those are exceptions, nothing more, and they do not  justify the continuing use of an to precede all words beginning with an h. See? There it is again!

Fox News is the only news channel available on my television, the result of the restrictions placed by my cable provider at my request. I have absolutely no interest in any news outlet other than Fox News. If I can convince the talking heads on Fox News to use the correct article in conjunction with the words history, historic,  historical, etc., my efforts will not have been in vain.

My original post follows:

An historic event?

Oh, puhleeze!

During the recent and still continuing snowfalls across the country, talking heads on television, weather forecasters in particular, have repeatedly characterized and continue to characterize snowstorms and snowfalls as an historic storm and an historical snowfall.

In the storied (and some say fabled) history of our nation there has never been an historic event, nor has there ever been an historical event. Never. Not one. I can clearly remember reading about historic events in a history book—World War II, for example, and the wrecks of the Titanic and the Hindenburg, the solo flight across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent to the top of Mount Everest. I found all those historic events in a history book, but I have never found one in an history book.

If we insist on dropping the H  and saying an historic event, we should apply that rule to all words beginning with H—that would give us an Hoover for a vacuum cleaner, an Hoover for president, an harp for music, an heaven to which we should all aspire, and on and on, ad infinitum.

I realize that such terms as an herb and an herb garden are firmly entrenched in our English language, in spite of the fact that many distinguished speakers and writers refuse to deviate from the terms a herb and a herb garden. Two of those distinguished people immediately come to mind—both Martha Stewart and I refuse to say an herb—we are sticking to a herb. That’s not one of my neighbors—that is the Martha Stewart, a widely known decorator and gardener, and an accepted authority on everything, including herbs, herb gardens and stock market trades.

If both Martha Stewart and I refuse to drop the h in herb in order to use the an rather than the a, that should provide sufficient reason for everyone else to step out of the an line and into the a line—one only needs to take a teenie weenie baby step to move from an egregious wrong to a resounding right—a step from left to right, so to speak. On serious reflection, such a move would be beneficial in other venues, particularly in the political arena.

Folks in Great Britain speak English, albeit English that in a large measure has not kept pace with the times, has not evolved over time as has our use of English to communicate. English-speaking people in Great Britain tend to drop their aitches, particularly those speakers of cockney descent.

The following joke clearly illustrates that tendency (please forgive me for the joke, but I must use the tools that are available to me):

During World War II an American soldier was strolling on the beach with a lovely British girl he had just met. A strong breeze was blowing off the water and the girl’s skirt billowed up over her waist. This was wartime and many products, ladies undergarments for example, were in short supply, hence this lady wore nothing under her skirt. The soldier took a quick look, but not wanting to embarrass her, quickly looked away and exclaimed, “Wow, it’s really airy!”

The girl snapped back, “Well, wot the ‘ell did you expect? Chicken feathers?”

I realize that returning our population to the proper use of a and an is a task that far outstrips Hercules’ assignment to clean the Augean stables. In comparison with Hercules’ assignment to clean the stables in one day, this one will require a tremendous amount of shoveling. Had we two rivers adjacent to the stables as Hercules did, we could divert the  streams to and through the stables as he did, and thus clear up this problem of deciding whether a or an will precede words beginning with an H.

Alas, we do not have the two rivers available for our use, but we do have shovels. I will continue to wield my shovel as long as the misuse of a and an exists, but I sure could use some help!

Oh, just one more thought—the first objection to saying a herb rather than an herb usually involves and invokes the word hour. I readily agree that nobody ever says a hour—they always say an hour. I accept that, but I do not accept it as justification to say an herb. An hour is simply an exception to the rule, exceptions that all of us must recognize and accept.

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

 

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This butt’s for you . . .

Regarding the above title: I strove mightily to resist using the word butt’s, but (there I go again!) the temptation was strong and my resistance was weak. I beg for forgiveness from any viewer that may take umbrage for its use. It’s not really my fault, it’s the fault of my weak resistance—just remember that to give is human, to receive is divine. Your forgiveness, freely offered, will establish your humanity, and my acceptance of that offer will affirm my divinity—wow, I love it when I talk like that!

I have just spent a considerable amount of time on a certain Word Press blog, one that I will later identify for my viewers. Along with that ID will be my recommendation  for others to follow this blogger. That recommendation applies strictly to those that are imbued with the ability and the inclination to appreciate a tremendously prolific pontificator that uses humor, sarcasm, dry wit, originality, a comprehensive knowledge of local, national and world wide history and current events, a writer that has a curious penchant for vacillating between leaning to the left and leaning to the right in our political spectrum—I suspect that he may be either a closet centrist—or left leaning or right leaning—whatever. Regardless of stance, whether yours or his, whether you stand left, center, right or a combination of one or more or all of the above, “This dud’s for you!”

I didn’t really mean the dud’s part—it may be nothing more than a typo, but I will not correct it because I have long yearned for an opportunity to fracture that phrase, and I couldn’t allow this one to escape me). In summary, I will say that the blogger in question, the one yet to be identified, has never left, nor will ever leave, any target unskewered!

In the not-too-long-ago past, a purveyor of floral arrangements and such, a gnat among birds of prey in the world of commerce, particularly vultures, flooded television and other venues with this slogan: “This bud’s for you!”

A certain giant—one that I will not name—threatened legal action if the gnat did not cease and desist in its illegal use of said giant’s own copyrighted slogan, one identical to the gnat’s slogan except for the letter b in the second word—the gnat’s b was lower case  and the giant’s B was capitalized.

And so it came to pass—the gnat folded. Bummer!

Oh, well, what the hell! I will name the giant and take my lumps if the company takes offense to my outing them. The giant was the Budweiser corporation, and the gnat was a teenie-weenie company that sold flowers.

The hour is early and my eyelids apparently have minds of their own. I will relent and out—unmask, so to speak—the blogger I mentioned. Click here for a visit to his city and state, and for his thoughts on various elements of our society, but set aside some time for the journey—you’ll need it!

Oh, and be patient while the blog is loading—the site is huge, a good match for the blogger’s ego, and in that vein, I must admit that my blog lags far below the size of my own ego. However, I believe that we both are striving to attain the level of super-ego, the pinnacle of one’s psychic apparatus, but he is much closer to that goal than I. Bummer! (Click here to refresh your understanding of Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche)

Special postcript: Please know that the image to the right is a photographic representation of the outed blogger, extracted from his About Me—that is not my picture. Click here for access to that feature and the voluminous comments the feature has attracted.

Can you say envy? I can—for the number of comments, not the image.

 

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More on Midland + country bands + baseball . . .

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, when our family had accumulated a sufficient amount of capital, enough for our stepfather Papa John to live his life in the manner to which he had become accustomed, a life to which he longed to return, he would take the necessary action. When he deemed that capital to be sufficient, he would find an excuse to dissolve our family. He would then go his way and we would go ours. This posting will discuss the spark that led to another conflagration in our family.

I believe Papa John always knew his ultimate destination in these circumstances, but we never knew ours until shortly before or shortly following the dissolution of our family. I never knew for certain in this instance, but I have a strong suspicion that he remained in Midland.

He was a skilled poker player, or at least professed to be such, and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles—F.O.E—hosted such activities nightly, up to and sometimes beyond the witching hour. Gambling was illegal in the state, but the state apparently considered poker playing similar to the game of canasta, or perhaps bridge, but I was a witness to some of the games—they usually involved seven players, too many for either canasta or bridge.

Now that I think of it, Midland was in a dry county at that time, and whether in search of beer or other alcoholic beverages, Midland’s residents journeyed to the city of Odessa, some eighteen miles to the west and smuggled their purchases into the city of Midland.

The F.O.E, however, served up myriad alcoholic beverages on demand, with that demand met by a demand for remuneration. A supposition could be made—and I do suppose such—that bending of the liquor law was allowed because the F.O.E  is a fraternal social club for members only—ordinary non-member drunks, however thirsty, are not allowed.

I have a separate posting in mind pertaining to the F.O.E and will follow up shortly with that posting unless I forget—I’ll never forget the incident, but I may well forget to post it. If it doesn’t appear soon, perhaps a visitor to my blog will remind me of my promise to post it.

As with any gambler, Papa John’s luck ebbed and flowed with the tide. When his luck turned sour and the tide was at its lowest, he would make up with my mother and take the measures necessary to reassemble our family. My mother never volunteered to brief my sister and me on the actions of our fickle but predictable stepfather and we never asked—we became experts at testing the wind, and usually could see the breakup coming down the pike.

Now to the crux of this posting:

The four of us were crowded into a single motel room on the outskirts of Midland. Ours was termed a kitchenette, a room equipped with a stove, refrigerator and an area for dining. One corner was walled off from the rest of the room and equipped with a small combination tub and shower, a small commode and a small sink.

Yep, everything was scaled down to fit in a very small area. The walls of the bathroom consisted of sheet rock on both sides with no sound proofing in between. The room had only one bed—a sleeping area for me and my sister was provided by placing the top mattress on the floor, thus leaving the bottom unit on the bed for our mother and our stepfather.

Yep, my sister and I shared that mattress, but I hasten to say that even though we were products of the deep South we did not conform to the popular notion that siblings in that area share a mutual physical attraction. There are some from the northern climes, particularly those attracted to novels such as God’s Little Acre, Tobacco Road and The Journeyman, that probably believe that such siblings are always physically attracted to one another and many, perhaps most, indulge in that mutual attractiveness.

Nope, not my sister and not I—we stayed on our respective sides of the mattress. My sister did not appeal to me and I can truthfully state that I did not appeal to her—for most of the limited time we were together during our teen years, we fostered and fed an intense dislike for each other.

The motel was adjacent to the city baseball park, and visiting baseball teams often housed players in the same motel. Also in proximity to the motel was a really swinging country music dance hall, one that attracted well known, little known and unknown country bands to perform there. As with the baseball players, the motel frequently hosted band members during their gig in Midland.

As the bard would say, “Ay, there’s the rub!” My sister was almost eighteen years old and apparently was considered quite comely, both by baseball players and country band members. I hasten to add that I was nowhere in agreement of their assessments of my sister’s comeliness, but I also confess that she and I shared only a modicum of respect and liking for each other—that mutual modicum figured prominently in my assessment of her comeliness.

Be that as it may, she was quite popular with the young men that called our motel home while in the city. On most evenings she could be found in a communal area directly in front of our room, an area that offered seating, umbrellas for shade in the daytime, a barbecue pit and lighting—very subdued lighting, subdued to the point that Papa John had to strain to effectively observe activities after nightfall. His observations frequently led to criticisms and warnings to my sister, prophecies that terrible things could come of her penchant for visiting with the visitors. He always ordered her in at an early hour, but my sister never came in at his first order—it always required repeated calls from our doorway, and often I was required to take the message to her.

My sister was a rebel, a modern day female Thoreau—she ultimately went her own way by going over, under, around or through any obstacles placed in her path. She responded to Papa John’s remonstrations with humor, none of which set well with our stepfather.

One evening when she came in just before midnight, considerably later than usual, Papa John told her that she should stay away from the baseball and band gangs, that  they were n’er-do-wells with nothing in their jeans. My sister responded laughingly that, “Oh, they sure do have something in their jeans.” Papa John was obviously thinking of money in their jeans, but my sister’s thoughts were elsewhere.

And that incident was, I believe, the catalyst that sparked the dissolution of our family. The tinder caught fire that night, a fire that would smolder for several days and then erupt into a full blown four alarm fire. The cataclysm that ensued was the result of a clever rejoinder my sister made to a cautionary remark made by our stepfather, a rejoinder that I considered hilarious—not that I laughed at the time, but I joined my sister in laughter later.

A few days later Midland and the summer we spent there was history—our kitchenette was vacant, Papa had disappeared and my mother, my sister and I were on a bus headed for El Paso, watching the motel, the ball park, the dance hall and the city of Midland recede through the back window of the bus. We were on our way to join my older brother and his family.

Our stay in El Paso would prove to be of short duration.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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