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A country breakfast? Never, not for a country boy. . .

While rambling around a Virginia blogger’s site I came across a photo masquerading as a breakfast in a Huntsville, Alabama home. I was born in Alabama but left there as soon as I could, illegally migrating at the age of five with my family far off to a westerly location in Mississippi, some thirty miles distant from my birthplace. For the next eleven years or so, I had many occasions to return to rural Alabama and I consider myself an expert on country breakfasts, including their composition, presentation and consumption. Click here if you are even the least bit interested in my humble beginnings—it’s a good read—check it out.

Please heed my warning—do not attempt to follow a mule while breaking new ground for planting if this is all you had for breakfast because neither you nor the mule will last until dinner—yes, dinner, not lunch. Country folk do not do lunch, except perhaps while visiting in colder climes in the northern regions.

A so-called country breakfast: This photo supposedly depicts a country breakfast offering in a Huntsville, Alabama home. Granted that it is a beautifully composed and presented photograph, neither it nor the meal constitutes a real country breakfast. Click here for the original posting with the photo, narrative and comments.

This is the narrative from the original posting:

Breakfast at Sue’s 23 11 2008 En route to Texas for the holidays, we stopped to stay overnight and spend Sunday with our friends, Sue and Steve, in Huntsville, Alabama. They moved from Virginia in April 2007. Sue always has funny napkins on hand, and Sunday morning’s breakfast proved no exception—guess she’s not a Yankee anymore with that attitude! Sue buys most of her funny napkins from Swoozie’s.

And this is my comment on the counterfeit breakfast, a comment that is beautifully composed and presented and can be consumed far more readily than the fruit and pseudo sandwiches shown in the photograph:

Breakfast? BREAKFAST? In Alabama? Where are the grits and eggs and sausage and bacon and biscuits and gravy? No new ground ever got cleared and plowed and cotton never got planted, chopped, picked and hauled off to the cotton gin by people with such a breakfast—that’s not a breakfast, that’s a brunch. Is that a glass of tea? FOR BREAKFAST? Where’s the steaming mug of coffee, one-half chicory, one half cream (real cream) and the other half sugar (real sugar)?
This is a country breakfast!

I can only surmise that the invasion of hordes from Northern climes has wrought such drastic change. That “breakfast” wouldn’t provide enough energy to get a team of mules harnessed and hitched up to the wagon. What a pity, or as we say in South Texas, “Que lastima!” As Stephen Foster lamented in his ode to Ol’ Black Joe: “Gone are the days . . .”

With that off my chest, let me say that the table setting is lovely, the photography is superb as always, and your hosts Steve and Sioux—I mean Sue—are the ultimate in graciousness. Their migration from Alexandria to Huntsville is Virginia’s loss and a boon to Alabama—these are people who will always “. . . leave the light on for you.” Click here for a beautiful dissertation on painting, poetry and picking cotton, all relative to this posting—a great read!


And as always when the need arises I will render full disclosure concerning any of my WordPress postings. The breakfast blogger is my daughter, one of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and labors in Virginia, and that bogus breakfast is the work of a transplant from Virginia, formerly a neighbor and still a best friend of the blogger, her BFF as they say on facebook. Sue is a lovely lady that has become a genuine Southern belle in every respect except, of course, in learning what constitutes a country breakfast. I trust that she will learn and conform as time passes—and time is fleeting, Sue!

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

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Posted by on May 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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A third letter to my wife in el cielo . .

Dear Janie,

This afternoon I dozed off while watching television in our den and I awoke with a start, looked around the room and said in a loud voice, “Where did you go? It was just like all the many times over the years when I would become preoccupied in reading or I would be snoozing and when I noticed your absence, whether by awakening abruptly or looking up from my reading, I would shout, “Where are you?” and you would answer that you were in the kitchen or that you were going to the bathroom or just returning from the bathroom, or something on the order of “I can’t do anything without you wondering where I am!”

The feeling of your presence in the den this afternoon was so strong, so powerful that it took me several seconds to realize that I had awakened to my new world, a world without you, the world that was created when you left me.

Perhaps I dreamed that you were here, but I have no recollection of dreaming. I have prayed every day since you left for you to come to me in a dream. I’ve prayed to Jesus and Mary and God and to all the apostles that I could remember, and to the gods of other religions—except to the god of those that would seek to destroy us and our nation.

In the thirty days since you left me I can recall dreaming only twice. Once I dreamed that Cindy and I were on a trip out to the southwest, shooting photography in every direction, and the other time involved a cat. I remember no details other than that there was a cat in my dream.

I want to dream. I need to dream. I need to see you in my dreams, to see that everything is all right with you and that you are safe and happy in your new world. I pray every night for you to come to me. I pray for other things and for other people, of course, but my thoughts of you and my longing for you are always uppermost in my mind, in my thoughts and in my prayers in all my waking hours.

Yes, I know that’s selfish. I probably should be praying for miraculous findings in the search for curing the diseases that shorten our lives, and for world peace and for the abolishment of hunger and suffering among third-world countries. I suppose I’ll get around to that when my prayers for you to come to me in my dreams are answered.

As for my awakening from sleep this afternoon and calling  for you, this is what I believe—I believe that you were in the den, that your spirit, your immortal soul, was there and in my dream, and although I was nestled deeply in the arms of Morpheus—asleep—I was aware in my subconscious mind that you were there, and that’s why I called out for you when I awoke.

I realize that all my erudite readers are familiar with the fact that Morpheus is the god of dreams in Greek mythology, a benevolent supernatural being between mortals and gods, a being that can take any human form and appear in dreams. Armed with that knowledge I do not find it necessary to explain the term, but a treatise and a painting of Morpheus may be found  here. The 1811 painting is Morpheus, Phantasos and Iris (Morpheus is the one reclining).

I did find it necessary to write and tell you that I was aware of your presence this afternoon. I thank you and I love you for being there for me, and I welcome you back whether I am awake, snoozing in the recliner or deep asleep in our bedroom.

I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.

Sleep well in heaven, my darling.

Mike

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in education, funeral, Humor, marriage

 

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19th Street South—a goose for Thanksgiving . . .

The word goose in the above title is not intended to be a verb, one that refers to the application of one’s hand, normally using the middle digit, to the derriere of another person, a motion that can be applied lightly, forcefully, brutally, playfully, laughingly, meaningfully or enjoyably but never accidentally. If one has goosed or has been goosed, both gooses were delivered purposefully and received unwittingly without choice—no, in this usage the plural of goose is not geese.

The word goose in the above title is a noun, the name for a large bird that exists in large numbers in the wild, but a bird that is also domesticated and raised for its food and feathers. In this case the plural of goose is geese—the birds shown on the right are geese.

When I was a child in Columbus, Mississippi we lived some thirty miles from our relatives in Alabama, and on Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays we traveled to Alabama to celebrate the day or they traveled to Columbus for the same reason. I can vividly remember a Thanksgiving that was celebrated at our house. a celebration that featured a large cast-iron wash pot and a large not-cast-iron goose.

On the day before Thanksgiving the men fashioned a tripod using lengths of 2×4 lumber similar to the method used by Indians to erect a tepee (also spelled tipi). A fire was laid in the center of the circle formed by the structure but not immediately lighted, the iron tub was firmly suspended from the apex of the tripod and filled with water and the goose, nicely cleaned of everything deemed not edible, went into the pot along with requisite other items—onions, potatoes, carrots and everything else that goes good with goose, and the fire was lighted and the goose was cooked—in fact, one could say truthfully that the goose’s goose was cooked—-just a bit of humor there!

The fire was tended for the remainder of that day and far into the night while the goose cooked and we children played, but never beyond the light supplied by the fire and by lights mounted on the sides of the house. The women sat and talked about everything and everybody except themselves and sang gospel songs, and the men talked about hunting and farming and fishing—occasionally one of the men would walk away just outside the circle of light and tilt a bottle up toward the moon to take a quick swig of its contents—they seemed to be taking turns at that—I’m unsure whether it was the same bottle, but I imagine there was more than one among the group

I was away from the scene and tucked in for the night long before the contents of the pot were removed and taken to the kitchen to await the next day’s carving and dining, kids playing, women gossiping and singing more church hymns and the men taking frequent short walks behind the house with a not-so-mysterious bulge in their shirt or hip pocket.

That goose—the bird, not the verb—was gifted by one of the visiting Alabama relatives that kept a flock of geese around the house for food purposes and to a lesser extent for watch purposes—yep, geese make good watchdogs and will sound the alarm when necessary—actually sound the alarm when anyone is near, whether friend or foe—it’s in their nature.

We lived next door to one of my mother’s sisters, a family of four—counting that four, our five and the relatives from Alabama there was a real gaggle of people gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, and we needed a lot of goose. To emphasize the number of people, picture a flatbed two-ton truck with no sideboards and its flatbed covered with passengers, folks lined on three sides with legs dangling and with more riders seated in the center plus several standing at the rear of the truck’s cab and several more in the cab. The dangling legs belonged to adults—the children were safely ensconced in the center of the flatbed.

The image above shows the actual gathering on that Thanksgiving day. It’s a painting made from a quick sketch by one of my uncles and later put on canvas—acrylic, I believe. The other image, by the same uncle, is a painting of my mother presenting the cooked goose to the diners—the fellow behind her is her boyfriend.

Hey, I knew I couldn’t fool my readers—you’re right—that image is a painting of the first Thanksgiving created by American artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930), and that is not my mother in the other image, nor is that her boy friend. That’s a painting by Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), one of the Four Freedoms series painted by one of America’s best-loved and most-collected artists—this is his conception of Freedom from Want. The others are Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear and Freedom of Worship.

The truck was overloaded when it arrived, but somehow when it left late in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day it accommodated all that had arrived on it plus me and my youngest sister and all the leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner, including a considerable amount of goose and goose dressing—yes, that was one large goose and a monumental amount of goose dressing.

That’s my story of a memorable Thanksgiving day when I was a boy, and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Alabama cotton fields & Old Black Joe . . .

SueCottonPaintingOne of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia, created a painting for her friend Sue as a house-warming gift. Sue had recently relocated from Virginia to Huntsville, Alabama and needed a mantle-piece decoration suitable to that part of our country. My daughter e-mailed me and included a photo of the painting (shown at right with the proud owners). Check here to read her posting on the painting and its journey to its new home.

This is my reply to her e-mail:

I shore do lak ‘at, especially the sky—and as you said, the trees on the horizon eliminate competition between the clouds and the cotton field.

Beautiful, simply beautiful.

At the instant I viewed this image, a phrase from a refrain immediately popped into my remembering apparatus, a song we learned in Miss Mary’s elementary school, probably around the second or third grade—I hear those gentle voices calling—I googled the phrase, and this is the song:

Old Black Joe
by Stephen C. Foster

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

I’m coming, I’m coming, for my head is bending low,
I hear those gentle voices calling, “Old Black Joe.”

Why do I weep when my heart should feel no pain,
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again,
Grieving for those now departed long ago,
I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

I’m coming, I’m coming, for my head is bending low:
I hear those gentle voices calling, “Old Black Joe.”

Where are the hearts once so happy and so free,
The children so dear that I held upon my knee,
Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go.
I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

I’m coming, I’m coming, for my head is bending low,
I hear those gentle voices calling, “Old Black Joe.”

A word of caution—you probably shouldn’t spend a lot of time on Foster’s poem. If you do, you may find yourself becoming misty-eyed and feeling a certain tightening in your throat, a sure indication of a heavy heart and bitter-sweet memories (of course it could be nothing more than a psuedo allergic reaction to the heat and dust and airborne molds found in cotton fields and wooded areas).

Your painting and the poem brought so many memories crowding in that I didn’t have enough room for them—I had to push some aside so I could concentrate on others.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR SUE: She might want to consider printing the poem on a small placard and placing it near the painting—after reading it viewers (anyone over the age of 16 and assuming a reasonable understanding of the English language), would lapse into a moment of reverie, alone with their memories, oblivious to sights and sounds around them, even though they may have never seen a field of cotton, in Alabama or elsewhere.

And then again, maybe not.

Some thoughts on picking cotton:

While in basic military training at the mid-way point in the past century, I was discussing cotton-picking with a new-found friend from Aspermont, Texas. I mentioned that, at the tender age of 11, I picked cotton in Mississippi for a few days. I was never able to pick one-hundred pounds in order to reach the dollar-a-day wage. Some adult males picked as much as 200 pounds in one day by working from dawn to dusk. Early in the season, when the cotton was heavy on the stalks, pickers earned a penny a pound, but later in the season when the cotton was sparse on the stalks, the rate rose to two-cents a pound (it was sparse when I picked it, but my never-indulgent step-father paid me only a penny a pound).

Bummer.

My friend told me his mother picked as much as 800 pounds a day. I figured this was nothing more than a tall Texas tale, but after further discussion I learned that there was a huge difference between the states in the method of removing the cotton from its stalk. In Mississippi we picked the cotton ball out of its bowl—in Texas they pulled the cotton, bowl and all, from the stalk, and occasionally also placed the stem in the cotton sack (inadvertently, of course).

The latest ginning machinery that separated the ball from the bowl had not yet found its way to the deep South. In rural areas Mississippi also lagged behind the rest of the country in electricity, paved roads, water lines and sewers.

I know—I was there. We cooled ourselves with hand-held fans, usually purloined from church benches, we heated our homes with wood-burning open fireplaces, we cooked our meals on wood-burning cast-iron stoves, we did our school homework by lamp-light, we hand-pumped our water from wells, we made the long trip—out to and back from—outdoor privies in daylight and darkness, in the heat of summer and the cold of winter—and the only way we talked to anyone other than family members was either face-to-face or by sending and receiving letters.

Ah, those were the days, my friends.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2009 in Family, Humor

 

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