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11th Street South and a gravel pit . . .

Eleventh Street South is where I lived for a couple of years that included my first year in elementary school. It was the second house we lived in following our migration from Vernon, Alabama to Columbus, Mississippi. That first house, located on Fifth Street South, has some vivid memories I intend to share with my visitors, memories that are just as fresh as when they were acquired. The house was where I and my youngest sister were administered to by our mother—medicated—when she became convinced that we both had or soon would have scabies—the itch. Click here for that story—it’s worth the visit!

I lived on Eleventh Street with my mother and three older sisters in a small frame house, a three-room shot-gun house, so called because it was said that one could fire a shotgun through the front door and the shot would go straight through the house and out the back door. The house boasted electricity and running water but had no bathroom. The necessary, a one-hole privy or outhouse, was located a few yards from the back door. Ours was the next-to-last on the block, and Fuqua’s Grocery was located at the other end of the block, a mercantile that figured prominently in our lives, especially mine—it’s a fit subject for a posting, and deserves individual attention. It’s mentioned in a previous posting, and among other things includes a discussion of my first job and my first firing—click here for that posting.

The last house was the residence wherein resided my best friend Tootie—his name was Edward Earl but he was nicknamed Tootie and for good reason—he had a predeliction for producing gas—flatulence—he would have been more aptly named Flatus—that has a nice Roman ring to it—a Latin lilt, so to speak. Tootie figures prominently in this posting and will be featured in a future story concerning a significant Saturday, a day when Tootie and I were privileged to ride in a city police car for a short distance and a day on which in current times would have warranted an Amber Alert.

Just as a harbinger of tales to come, Tootie once nailed the door to our privy shut—I’m unsure why, but the act was probably his revenge for something I had said or done. My mother had to borrow a hammer from a neighbor in order to pull the nails and put the family back in business.

Just as an aside, back in the 1980s while living in the Washington, D.C. area, I spotted an auto license plate that read FLATUS. I was traveling to my job in downtown D.C. with a friend and his wife. I laughed when I saw the plate and they asked me what was so funny. I told them and they both laughed, but after a short pause the wife said, “What does that mean?” Her husband unashamedly admitted that he didn’t know, so I had to explain. In their defense, I must tell you that they were from Minnesota, born and bred there—that should be adequate explanation for anyone that remembers Rose Nylund on  TV’s Golden Girls, portrayed by Betty White as a typical native of Minnesota.

The asphalt pavement ended at our house, and the two-lane gravel road continued straight for a short distance and then made a sharp left turn, almost ninety degrees, before continuing on into rural areas, outside city limits. If, instead of turning left, a driver or pedestrian continued straight on a two-rut road for a mile or so, they would come to a large gravel pit filled with water—cool, clear, blue and deep water, a magnet for the boys from a nearby orphanage, the Palmer Home—and for me. Click here for a brief history of the home. Over the years the orphanage has grown and is now known as the Palmer Home for Children. Click here for an update.

My mother often threatened to send me to the Palmer Home unless I changed my ways, specifically concerning my frequent trips to the gravel pit. I never told her that I would welcome the transfer because I envied the kids there. They had all sorts of animals—cows and horses and dogs and goats and a farm where they grew vegetables—they were allowed to feed the animals and milk the cows and work in the garden and had what appeared to be unrestricted access to the gravel pit—in fact, the gravel pit was on property owned by the Home.

For those unfamiliar with the term, gravel pits are created when material—gravel—for use in road building and construction, is mined in an open pit. Because the water table was high in my area, a grand swimming pool was formed—a pool of cool, clear, blue and deep water, a magnet for the boys that lived at Palmer Orphanage, and of course for me.

On a memorable day in a hot summer, memorable for the heat and the cooling effect of gravel pit water, but most memorable for me a day in which my mother came to the gravel pit looking for me and found me. I was blissfully floating around on my back in the middle of the pit, face upturned to the sun and eyes closed, and a clamor arose.  I looked around and watched my friends from the orphanage scramble for their clothes and head away from the pit towards the orphanage in considerable haste. And I saw my mother standing on the bank, my short pants in one hand and my leather belt in the other.

With the departure of the other boys the area grew silent, a silence broken only by my efforts to stay afloat and offshore as long as I could. After awhile my mother told me I might as well come on in because she wasn’t leaving without me. I stayed out in that cold clear deep water until my lips turned blue and everything I had shriveled up—you know, like fingertips, toes, etc. When I finally came out my mother refused to let me have my shorts, but instead pointed me in the direction of home and ordered me to march.

And march I did, driven on by frequent pops on my bare derierre. With each pop I accelerated my pace a bit, but each time my mother told me not to run, that it would be even worse when she caught me. The blows from the narrow belt were not delivered in anger—I would like to believe they were delivered with love, but with repetition they began to take a toll, much as does the fabled Chinese water torture process. She whipped me for the full mile, all the way to our house, along the two-rut road and into the middle of the street, past Tootie’s house where that worthy was standing on the front porch, laughing and pointing at me as I hopped, skipped and jumped along, and finally after an eternity, through the front door of our house.

No, that derierre above is not mine—that’s a plastic replica of Donatello’s sculpture of David. The colorful ones on the right are those of naked cyclists, presented here only because the colors are as fascinating as they are functional.

I learned a lesson that day, not to stay away from the gravel pit, but to be far more furtive—sneaky, so to speak—in planning my trips to the gravel pit. I couldn’t help it—it was in my nature—as a child I was a vagabond and probably would have been well served with around-the-clock supervision. Had I been a a few years older I would have been riding the rails with the multitude of others during the Great Depression.

As a child I was inexorably drawn to water in all its locations, whether pond, lake, creek, river, swimming pool, mud puddle or sewage ditch—yes, sewage ditch—our next home, also located on the south side of town, was adjacent to an open sewage ditch where I spent many blissful hours. Because of water’s attraction I had great difficulty staying at home, a trait—call it a fault if you will, but I consider it a trait—less admirable than others but nevertheless a trait rather than a fault. There will be additional postings in reference to my fascination with water in all its aspects. That’s a threat as well as a promise, so be forewarned and govern yourselves accordingly.

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

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century . . .

Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century

Early in my military career I was privileged to spend some 15 months in one of the most beautiful countries in the exotic far East—well, actually my time there was mandated by the US Department of Defense because of the Korean War, a conflict that began in June of 1950 and was in full swing throughout my sojourn there.

My superiors told me that I was there to help South Korea resist a takeover by North Korea and others, specifically communist China, a northern neighbor that was in turn assisted by Russia, a nation that obligingly provided war weapons and other materials. I did the best I could to help win the war, but the outcome was not completely successful—it raged on for some four years and ended in a draw. The truce that ended the war still exists, and the possibility of renewal of the conflict ebbs and flows.

My memories of my time in South Korea are plentiful and vivid. Among those memories is one of a small RCA portable record player and two vinyl records, one 45 RPM (revolutions per minute) and the other an LP (long play, 33 1/3 revolutions per minute)—yes, Virginia, vinyl records—cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs were many years into the future. I don’t remember who claimed ownership of the records or the record player, but the two records and their contents still loom large in my memory, and for good reason—I listened to them so many times that I still retain most of the lines. They were the only records we had, so they had a lot of play.

The 45 RPM had the song below—I don’t remember the flip side because we rarely played it. I don’t remember the artist, but internet research indicates that the artist was probably Skeets McDonald, a county singer prominent in the 1950s and 1960s. There are numerous versions available online, all differing in some respect, but the one below is the real McCoy–trust me—I’ve been carrying it around in my mind for some 60 years or so—hey, I sometimes use it to lull myself to sleep! These are the words I remember:

Once I married a tattooed lady
It was on a cold winter day
And tattooed all around her body
Was a map of the good old USA.

Upon her leg was Minnesota
On her shoulder Tennessee
And tattooed on her back
Was good old Hackensack
The place where I longed to be.

Upon her chest was West Virginia
Through those hills I did love to roam
And when the moonlight starts to shine
Down on her Wabash
That’s when I recognized my Indiana home.

Special note: There are two words in this posting that are generally considered vulgar—both words basically consist of four letters and one syllable. Either may be used as a noun, whether singular or plural, and both may be conjugated under the prevailing rules of conjugation and used as verbs—present, past, future and all the more subtle tenses allowed—and both may be used as descriptive adjectives.

Of the two records available, the LP record was the one most often played. It was titled The battle of the century, a championship contest waged between the US world champion and his challenger from Australia, a fighter that trained for the competition by traveling from his native country to the United States on a boat loaded with raw cabbages—a fighter on a freighter from a far-flung land, so to speak (I really love alliteration!).

Is the light beginning to dawn? Can you guess the nature of the contest? Huh? Huh? Can ya? I’ll give you this much of a hint—the operative words are raw cabbages.

If you have ever listened to a radio announcer’s description of a world champion boxer defending his title against a challenger, you’ll understand how the record sounded. The contest took place in a circular arena with elevated spectator seats arranged around 360 degrees. In the exact center of the ring was a post, gripped by the contestants to provide stability as they competed. The announcer described in detail the ring and its contents, the spectators including introductions of important personages attending, the contestants and their costumes—highly important items in the contest. Their fight statistics, records and titles won were given, as were many of their personal attributes and most important, the point system used to determine the winner was described in minute detail.

The contestants were fully and colorfully clothed, their costumes festooned with bangles and beads and sponsor’s ads, similar to NASCAR vehicles, all shimmering in the bright kleig lights. The only exception to being fully clothed was that a circular piece of each costume was missing at a strategic point, basically at the lower part of each contestant’s heine (my word, not the announcer’s). The challenger’s cutout circle was very basic and strictly functional, but the champion’s circle was festooned with ribbons that fluttered gaily at times during the competition, depending on the point value of his performance.

The point system included several judges, each scoring points separately and those points averaged to add to the total for each contestant. Points available ranged from a low of two points to a high of 15 points. The nomenclature of the two-pointer escapes me for now, but when I recover it —if I recover it—I will add it to this posting. The 15 pointer was called a triple flutter-blast, a triumphal feat equal to a grand-slam home run in major league baseball, a very rear—oops, I mean very rare feat that virtually always earned a standing applause from spectators. The only triple flutter-blast in this contest was generated by the champion, illustrating and emphasizing the talents that vaulted him—so to speak—to the world championship.

At several times during the fight, the judges found it necessary to examine the cutout to determine the presence of any wetness, the presence of which would nullify any points earned for that particular effort.

Okay, let me wrap this up—I’m sure you’ve deduced by now that The Battle of the Century was a f – – ting contest. I know, I know—I could have called it a flatulence contest, but somehow that word doesn’t ring true, so I used the word that punctuated—so to speak—the announcer’s account of the battle—I mean lots and lots and lots of times  during the contest. Please note that I have used it only once, and that time as an adjective in order to identify the nature of the contest—the addition of the gerund, the ing, was necessary in order to create the adjective. And also I camouflaged it by using a couple of dashes because I didn’t want to sully this posting by spelling out the word

The point score at the end—so to speak—placed the challenger ahead of the champion by only one point, and all the champion needed was a simple two-pointer to retain his title. He preened and pranced at a leisurely pace toward the post, bowing repeatedly to his cheering fans, waving and pointing and smiling and giving the thumbs-up signal. He confidently grasped the pole, squatted, took a deep breath and grunted, and a sound reverberated in the arena, a sound magnified by the sensors strategically placed near the post, a sound not heard even once during the competition—a sound that impinged on the hearing of judges, spectators and contestants alike.

Although everyone suspected the worst, there was a prolonged silence while the judges made a close-up visual examination of the cutout area in the champion’s costume, and at their signal the announcer shouted,

Oh, my God! The champion s – – t! He’s disqualified! We have a new world champion! Here, as in f – – ting, I have used dashes to avoid tarnishing my posting, my reputation and my future with Word Press.

From that point the record produced nothing but silence.

And then we played it over.

And over.

And over.

Both records were still being played by replacements when I exercised my right, after 15 months in Korea, to return to the land of big Post Exchanges and round doorknobs.

I must admit that I was glad the champion lost, if for no other reason for his taunting of the challenger when the contestants were first introduced to the spectators. When the champion stood to acknowledge the applause, he strolled over to the challenger, turned his back to him, bent over and expelled a single two-pointer then jauntily walked away, and the spectators roared their approval.

The announcer gushed thusly: Wow, I can’t believe that! What a champion, and what control! That was only a two-pointer, of course, but for the champion to waste even two points merely as a gesture of defiance, he has demonstrated his ultimate confidence in his ability to retain his world championship.

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

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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32 Czars & counting—we need one more . . .

Our government now has 32 czars, each charged with oversight of a different segment of life in the United States. These positions are filled by people selected by unknown means, but some of whom admittedly know nothing about the segment over which they hold sway.

I suggest that President Obama appoint a Phart Czar. Were I the president, my selection would be a former vice-president—Al Gore.

Al Gore is one of the major causes of global warning. He is consistently, in the words of the bard, “hoist with his own petar.” Some of the bard’s analysts suggest that the phrase is a play on words and refers to the fact that the persons mentioned are lifted aloft by their own flatulence (see explanation below). In Al’s case, he is lifted by his own hot air, primarily generated by his pompous proclamations concerning global warming.

For now, the former vice-president seems to be a necessary evil, about which little can be done—it’s just something we will have to tolerate. Perhaps his appointment to the position of Phart Czar will add a bit of weight to a couple of his lightweight awards—the Oscar awarded by Hollywood and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here I must digress for a moment and offer my thanks for a site that is a great source for writer’s tips—check it out at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/hoist-with-his-own-petard/.

The information that follows was gleaned from that site:

Here is how the expression is used in Hamlet (III, iv, 206-208):

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.

A “petar” was an explosive device. It got its name from the French verb pêter, which means “to break wind.” The Old French noun pet means “fart.” Shakespeare was making one of his earthy puns here.

Another major cause of global warning, other than Al Gore—one that can be addressed and perhaps eliminated, or at least reduced—is the methane gas emitted by animals. This is the vast amount of flatulence produced by livestock, primarily cattle (cows). In 2005 the United State’s livestock population, including cattle, was almost 96 million—this would include horses, mules, sheep, swine and other lesser animals (lesser in size, not necessarily in the amount of methane expelled into the atmosphere). Of all the animals, those in the know tell us that cows are the worst offenders (I don’t know how that was determined, and I’m not sure that I want to know).

Our country needs a Phart Czar, one who can evaluate the situation, determine methods of controlling such emissions, and exercise control over such emissions by implementing those methods. The Czar’s duties would include intensive measurements of emissions collected from various breeds of cattle. It could be that Jerseys (cows, not people) emit more methane than the Holstein breed, for example. Armed with that knowledge, the Phart Czar could concentrate on reducing the Jersey population (cows, not people), or perhaps if deemed necessary, eliminating the breed through attrition (of Jersey cows, not people).

However, I believe that our major problem is not necessarily with the lower order (so-called) of animals. A corollary problem is methane—flatulence—produced by the higher order (so-called) of animals. That order is the human race, and that problem should be addressed immediately.

To my knowledge no effort has been made to measure the contribution to the atmosphere of methane generated by the herds of humans in our country—in concentrating on animal production we may have completely overlooked our own contributions. The estimated population for the United States in 2008 was almost 304 million human pharters, more than triple the number of livestock in the nation.

Who knows? Our collective contributions to global warming may approach, equal or even surpass that of livestock.

This should be the Phart Czar’s immediate concern—to determine the depth of the problem and make recommendations to reduce the output of something which, apparently, is detrimental to our health and to our future.

Who would have thought that such a normal function of our bodies could be harmful? Certainly not I. In fact, there is a little ditty that many of my generation learned at our mother’s knee and frequently recited over the years. It’s one that the U. S. Air Force officer who established the Wellness Clinic at Wilford Hall Hospital used as the opener in all his speeches promoting the program.

It goes like this:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,

The more you eat, the more you phart,

The more you phart, the better you feel,

So let’s eat beans every meal.

This would be the most sensitive part of the Phart Czar’s job:

Any analysis of the problem must—I repeat, must—include race. The amount of flatulence, as well as its olfactory and auditory effects, is in large part influenced by diet. Some foods promote the production of methane—examples are beans, onions, diary products (especially milk) and let’s not forget one of the worst culprits—broccoli. There are those among us who eat far more beans, broccoli, dairy, etc., than do other segments of the population and therefore should be so judged and subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation, and corrective action taken as deemed necessary.

Of course, over time through on-hands management, diligent investigation, development of corrective measures and prompt application of those measures, the Phart Czar may find that other foods and other segments of the population may generate as much, or even more, methane gas. No one, including vegetarians, pescotarians, etc., can be exempted—all must be scrutinized and evaluated.

I also suggest that significant stimulus money be provided to persons and companies involved in the study of enzymes (some of which may reduce unwanted digestive issues). In theory at least, new enzymes could be developed that would significantly reduce or even eliminate flatulence, both in humans and in the so-called lower classes of animals. As we all know, flatulence is involuntary and therefore not the fault of the animal, whether human or otherwise—it’s the bacteria in the animal’s colon—they are the culprits—perhaps under the direction of the Phart Czar, a new strain of bacteria could be developed, one which could continue to make its necessary contributions to life without producing methane gas.

One can only hope and dream.

There is, of course, a downside to the complete elimination of methane emitted by living beings—some of us, and perhaps some of the animals, are not strongly disinclined with the conditions which presently exist.

And finally, this is why we need another czar—a Phart Czar:

According to Al Gore, time is of the essence.

As an aside, I recommend that those who invest in the stock market take a careful look at Beano, a product that is said to counter, or at least reduce, the effect of beans in the production of methane in humans. It may be found that by the simple introduction of Beano into beans and other foods, either in the growth process by injecting Beano into the seeds or in the preparation of beans for retail to the public, both uncooked and cooked—a good place to start would be in the vast numbers of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants—that feature beans in virtually every dish offered to the public. One of the bean side dishes offered with many entrees is an ultra-delicious culinary delight—it’s called re-fried beans, an item that should be considered particularly suspect for its contributions to the cumulative deleterious effect of flatulence discharged into our atmosphere.

The makers of Beano claim that it counteracts the adverse effects of beans on the human digestive system (for some of us but not all), and offer compelling testimonials to its favorable action. I predict that Beano will in the future change the lifestyle of many people, perhaps propelling (so to speak) some into the rarified air of millionaires, provided that investors get in at the bottom (so to speak) and invest in the product. However, I must in the interest of full disclosure reveal that the product does not work for me.

It makes me phart.

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

 

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