Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Annie Isn’t In Church

Like far too many of us, my former coworker, Bill, and his wife Annie haven’t been to church for a long while. Knowing that they’re both devout Christians, I got bold enough, just before we lost our jobs, to ask Bill the reason for their lack of a church. He told me that if he had his druthers, he’d visit around, but never join. Annie, though, is no longer interested even in visiting.

Annie’s mother’s people were decent Christian folks of various and sundry denominations. Her dad’s people had originally been Amish, but had become Baptists somewhere along the way. His mom had apparently been raised Catholic, but had converted to Baptist either when she married, or sometime before. Annie’s dad grew up with a father who gambled and chased women, beat his wife and kids, and went to church on Sunday. His mom seemed to believe that anything pleasant was sinful and cause for using the switch, so his childhood was surely no joy. In later years, Annie’s grandparents and several of her aunts and uncles and their families moved in with her folks and mooched off them until Annie’s mom and her kids often went hungry themselves. All the while Annie’s dad was beating his own wife and kids, but taking them to church every Sunday.

Despite such a violent, hypocritical raising, Annie got saved at 13. She credits the Lord with getting her through the next eight years, until she married the first man she ever dated and escaped her home by moving out of state. Her husband loved her and treated her well and a few years later he, too, gave his heart to the Lord. Unfortunately, the church they were attending was run by two families who were always at odds. Somehow, getting some poor working stiff baptized kept getting put off due to more “important” matters. A couple years later, they moved back to West Virginia, but never got around to going to church. Ten years later her husband died, leaving Annie and their son wondering how to cope with life. That was when she started going to church again.

She didn’t know that the neighborhood church had driven one preacher out because his wife was built too much like Dolly Parton to suit some of the church women. Nor did she know they’d cold-shouldered sundry widows and divorcees out of the church over the years because of their jealousy. She was shocked, then, when it got back to her that she was supposed to be putting the moves on one of the single trustees, plus one of the head deacon’s sons. It didn’t help that she was petite and attractive, not to mention rather buxom for her size.

She stuck it out, though, and eventually married a divorced neighbor who sometimes attended church there and was a gossip target for other reasons (Bill). Eventually, a preacher came along who acted like the south end of a north-bound horse and his actions caused them to quit going. They started going to a church a few miles up the road, and Annie was overwhelmed with the smiles and hugs they got there from men and women alike. Before long, they joined the church.

The devil can’t stand a happy ending or a growing church, though. After they moved to a larger building in a different place, there started being some division in the church. That was bad enough, but then things got personal. For a long time, neither her nor Bill realized that one of the grey-headed married men there had the hots for Annie in a bad way. Someone in the church DID notice it, though—the grey-headed married woman that had the hots for that grey-headed married man (and it wasn’t his wife). By the time that Bill and Annie figured out what was going on, the grey-headed old woman had spread the rumor that Annie was trying to put the moves on the old man and, not surprisingly (knowing human nature), nearly everyone chose to believe it. They continued to treat Bill fine; Annie was a different story.

Coming from a home where she felt no love as a child, Annie had treasured her “friends” there at church. That made it all the more hurtful for her to see that, with no evidence what-so-ever, they were willing to write her off as a slut. The stories certainly got back to the grey-haired married man who set the chain of events in motion with his (almost) unnoticed lust. Of course, he wouldn’t come to her defense for fear of exposing his own sins. Through it all, things were just discrete enough that nothing could be said about it without Bill and Annie looking paranoid or quarrelsome. Bill seriously considered giving the old man a chance to practice turning the other cheek, but Annie convinced him not to. Needless to say, they quit going to church there.

Annie and Bill miss church. Annie especially misses taking communion. She says that she’ll probably never go to any church again, though; she’s just too scared of getting hurt. © 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why Do They Lie?

Back when I worked at the factory, I sometimes stopped at quick-shop type stores after work to get a few items for the kitchen or the fridge. Prices are always high in such places so, a few times, I stopped at the Kroger’s store instead. Of course, Kroger’s is no discount store, but it’s cheaper than the quick-shops.

Now, the big sign at the top of the store said “Open 24/7.” I learned, though, that there was no need for me to stop on Friday nights. I was surprised the first time I pulled in after getting off the afternoon shift on a Friday after midnight to a semi-dark store and an empty parking lot. I was surprised again a few weeks later when I forgot and stopped by again after work on a Friday. You see, it turned out that they closed down for six hours each week from midnight on Friday to six AM on Saturday. So why didn’t they put up a sign that said “sun-fri 24hrs, sat 6AM-12AM?” I guess they preferred to lie. Incidentally, they’re now open at that location from 6AM-12AM daily.

Recently, my stepson has been working a job where he gets off sometime after 3AM. By that time, he’s getting hungry so, a couple times lately, he stopped at Burger King’s drive-through to get a burger. The sign says “Open 24/7.” Guess what? They aren’t. It turns out that they close every night from 3-4 AM. They came to the window and he asked them why their sign said that they were open 24/7, but they just gave him some flimsy excuse for their lying. The workers were there; they just weren’t serving customers. Now I can understand if they need to be closed to clear the registers and balance their books or something, but why not put up a sign that says “23/7,” rather than lie to people? I guess they think that it looks so good on the sign that they’re willing to alienate any potential late-night customers for the chance to lie about it. It don’t make no sense to me! © 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

“People Will Die On The Streets Tonight.”

That phrase comes to my wife’s mind whenever we have a freezing, blustery night. She first met the teenager who uttered those words several years ago when she agreed to help a lady with her housework for a while. She and her husband had decided to host a foreign exchange student and the lady thought that having an extra person around might make it hard for her to keep up with her chores, since she and her husband both taught school and often worked over.

The student was a very pleasant, good-hearted boy from Russia. He was skinny, well educated and quiet. The first time that he saw an American grocery store, his jaw dropped in shock. Even though his father supposedly had a good job with the government, he’d never seen so much food in his life. His family lived in a smallish apartment by American standards. I don’t know what they did about breakfast or lunch, but their supper was furnished by the government, and whatever they brought was what they ate…period.

The boy was amazed how easy it was to get milk and eggs here and was told that he could eat and drink all of them that he wanted. He was glad to get all the meat he wanted, but milk and eggs continued to make up a large part of his diet here, since those items were almost impossible for him to get in Russia. Also, they let him take his sheets, blankets and pillows home to Russia when it came time to leave, since he’d never had his own bedclothes before.

I’m sure that his year in America was an educational experience for all involved, and in many different ways. However, my wife’s main memory of the boy was on horrible winter days, when he would look outside at the wind-driven snow, a sad look would come to his face and he’d say, “Back home, people will die on the streets tonight.” She never told him that there would probably be some folks in this country meeting the same fate. © 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

“Mud Veins” In Fish

I’ve never eaten a carp, but I’ve always heard that you should remove the mud vein before eating them and that you should watch out for “floaters” (loose bones suspended in the flesh, as in suckers). They say the fish will taste “muddy” if you don’t remove that vein, thus the name. Some folks, who know nothing about fish, envision a section of intestine, like in shrimp. The mud vein in fish though is neither a vein, nor a part of the intestines. It’s a strip of darker meat about halfway up the side of the fish and runs from gill to tail.

Some references say that it’s at the same point as the lateral line. The lateral line on a fish is heavily laden with nerves and is used to detect movement in the water around them. That helps them locate prey, avoid predators and stay in their schools more easily. There is supposedly a higher level of fat in that area and the meat is darker due to that section being more saturated with blood. I assume the extra blood is to keep the nerves in good health. Since poisons and heavy metals tend to be deposited in the fish’s body fat, both that area and the fat along the belly are more likely to be contaminated and taste peculiar. It may be best, then, to remove both.

While I’ve never tried removing the vein from them before cooking, bass, catfish and even bluegill show evidence of the so-called vein, as do most fish. I HAVE learned that fish tend to taste less “fishy” if you scrape the vein off before eating them. It removes quite easily after cooking, and you’ll find the seam between the back meat and rib meat underneath. I don’t know if removal after cooking would work for carp or not; I know that it does for trout, tilapia and salmon. Other folks suggest keeping the fish in clean water for a few days to let them “flush out,” just some do with turtles. Whatever method you choose, please don’t let your catch (or your meal) go to waste. © 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Do YOU Think?

I have always freely admitted that I have some prejudice against blacks. I make no apologies for that fact simply because it was black people themselves who made me that way, not the teachings of, or peer pressure from, other people. Prejudice is about feelings. Racism and bigotry is about action, or lack of it. I’m not a racist or a bigot, but I AM a realist. ANYONE who says they aren’t prejudiced against SOMEONE is lying to themselves, PERIOD. I don’t say that to justify my own prejudice, but because over half-a-century of people-watching has convinced me of the fact.

That said, I used to have a supervisor who was young enough to be my daughter, but probably tried harder to be fair and helpful than anyone I’ve ever worked under. She was white, but she had three children by her black ex-husband and was then allowing her black boy-friend to live with her and off of her. Eventually, she grew tired of that situation, and his inclination toward being abusive, and threw him out. Even then, I noticed that she was attracted only to black guys, and she appeared to be more sympathetic to black kids at work than she was toward white ones. Still, she was unfair with no-one, and I wrote off her greater concern for black kids to the fact that she had three of her own.

Not long ago, I included her on my friends list on Facebook. Since then, I’ve noticed something about her posts. Except for personal stuff between her white friends and coworkers, all her posts are about blacks. Almost daily, she posts music, quotes, events and history concerning blacks. I didn’t think anything about it until after a few weeks, I realized that she had never posted one single solitary thing from or about a white person. Now, I’ve seen some folks that are infatuated with certain races or groups of people; folks that are seriously into oriental or Native American culture come first to mind. Still most don’t completely turn their back on their own culture and upbringing.

The other day, I checked out one of the sites where she gets some of the things that she reposts. It was a site for interracial couples. I could see how that might serve a purpose, but I had to wonder about the respectability of the site, when I saw a drawing of two large black feet turned downward between two smaller, up-turned ones. Not only did that strike me as trashy, but I saw no drawings of other colors or combinations. Looking through the site, it was all black guys and white gals, no white guys with black gals and no other races. I remember thinking at the time that the site seemed rather discriminatory. Out of fairness, I checked the site again a few days later and all my areas of concern were entirely gone, including the feet. I assume that it must change from day to day. Interestingly enough, the young woman finally quoted a white person that day.

The situation got me to thinking, though. Despite still thinking highly of my former boss for her good heart, I have to admit that I think slightly less of her than I did. Perhaps I’m wrong to feel this way, but it seems to me that being AGAINST a person because of their color is no more wrong than being FOR a person due to their race. So is “reverse discrimination” any more honorable than plain old discrimination? In fact; is there any difference what-so-ever? Neither is color-blindness. What do YOU think? © 2013

The Silence Is Deafening

"Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." That sentence from Romans tells us that the late shooter in La-La Land was a long way from doing the Lord's will in his life. The fact that he murdered the innocent daughter of a policeman makes his actions even more deplorable. Yet, when you start learning the whole story, you can see how a non-Christian with a screw loose might decide to extract revenge from those who had ruined his life. Many of us feel like my neighbor, who once said that there's no such thing as an honest cop, because half are criminals themselves, and the other half don't try to do anything about it. Dorner tried to be that honest cop - and paid the price. Ultimately, he was murdered by cops who wanted to shut him up - a fitting end for a murderer, some would say. Yet, THOSE murders, too, will pay the price for their sins, if not in this life, then in the next one.

Try to get your hands on a copy of his manifesto, if it hasn't already been scrubbed from the internet. It's rambling and shows some of his instability, but it also shows his intelligence and his crushed idealism. Below are three items from his "final opus."

"54 - Luckily I don't have to live everyday like most of you. Concerned if the misconduct you were apart of is going to be discovered. Looking over your shoulder, scurrying at every phone call from internal affairs or from the Captains office wondering if that is the day PSB comes after you for the suspects you struck when they were cuffed months/years ago or that $500 you pocketed from the narcotics dealer, or when the other guys on your watch beat a transient nearly to death and you never reported the UOF to the supervisor. No, I don't have that concern, I stood up for what was right but unfortunately have dealt with the reprocussions of doing the right thing and now losing my name and everything I ever stood for. You fuckers knew Evans was guilty of kicking (excessive force) Gettler and you did nothing but get rid of what you saw as the problem, the whistleblower. Gettler himself stated on video tape ( provided for the BOR and in transcripts) he was kicked and even his father stated that his son said he was kicked by Evans when he was released from custody. The video was played for the entire BOR to hear. Tingirides, Eisenberg, and Martella all heard it. You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!

"96 - It is endless the amount of times per week officers arrest an individual, label him a suspect-arrestee-defendant and then before arraignment or trial realize that he is innocent based on evidence. You know what they say when they realize an innocent man just had his life turned upside down?. "I guess he should have stayed at home that day he was discovered walking down the street and matching the suspects description. Oh well, he appeared to be a dirtbag anyways". Meanwhile the falsely accused is left to pick up his life, get a new, family, friends, and sense of self worth.

"98 - Don't honor these fallen officers/dirtbags. When your family members die, they just see you as extra overtime at a crime scene and at a perimeter. Why would you value their lives when they clearly don't value yours or your family members lives? I've heard many officers who state they see dead victims as ATV's, Waverunners, RV’s and new clothes for their kids. Why would you shed a tear for them when they in return crack a smile for your loss because of the impending extra money they will receive in their next paycheck for sitting at your loved ones crime scene of 6 hours because of the overtime they will accrue. They take photos of your loved ones recently deceased bodies with their cellphones and play a game of who has the most graphic dead body of the night with officers from other divisions. This isn't just the 20 something year old officers, this is the 50 year old officers with significant time on the job as well who participate."
I haven't yet heard any of this yet on our newscasts. Perhaps you have heard some on yours. However, now that the whistle-blower is dead, I suspect it will all fade quietly away.

© 2013

What Ya Gonna Do?

I've heard that this sign is bogus, and that you can't believe anything you see on the internet. I guess that goes for those stories I've seen about him being born in Hawaii, too, right?



Has anyone else out there had to remove a blurb from the end of your posts from "webrep," or some such place? Also, am I the only one who has given up using tags because of that !#%^*&)(@! auto-tag function of Blogger's?

Be Still, My Heart!

My pulse raced for a second or two when I first saw one of these last fall, thinking that maybe I had an American Chestnut sprout nearby. Then, I realized that there were no little spines on the end of the lobes. Looking around, I found that a nearby Chestnut Oak had leaves like this on the twig terminals. The other leaves looked perfectly normal. Oh well; I had hope for a few seconds!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Vile Minds


One of my great-grandfathers was a United Brethren preacher who started out riding circuit on horseback. Gradually, he got appointed to different churches, one after the other, until he managed to stay put in his wife’s home territory. By that time, he was getting old enough that younger preachers sometimes counted on him to be their mentor. Circuits were pretty-much a thing of the past by that time, and one young pastor in the area stayed in close contact with him. One day, he received a letter from the young pastor asking him to come to his aid quickly. (This was still in the days before telephones.)

It seems that the young preacher was out in his tiny barn at milking time and needed to drain his tank. Like many a farmer before him, he figured if the cows could pee in their stalls, so could he. Unfortunately, he was no sooner in full stream than one of his cows decided to move backwards, and literally pushed him backwards out the barn door. As fate would have it, the biggest gossip in his church was going by in a buggy with her husband. They were close enough to see the preacher apparently attached to the back end of a cow, but too far away to see the stream of urine splashing downward. Before the day was up, everyone in the community knew of the “perverted preacher.’

Grandpa did his best to get the church leaders to listen to the truth of the matter, but two of their members had “seen it with their own eyes,” and none of them would accept that things were not what they appeared to be from a distance. Grandpa said that he’d known that young man since he was in diapers, and he would never in a million years have done such a thing. Still, he finally advised the young preacher to resign, simply so he could remove himself from such a wicked neighborhood and get on with his life.

The young preacher was devastated. I don’t know if he continued on in the ministry or not, or what eventually happened to the church that was so ready to believe the absolute worst about their pastor. One thing is for sure, it gives proof to the old saying below:

“Don’t believe ANYTHING you hear, and only HALF of what you see.”

© 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Love Birds

Here's a 1909 wedding photo of the man who sent the valentine, in a previous post, and the woman who received it (my grandparents). His letters from the oilfields were just as sweet 30 years later as when they were first married. Incidentally, though she soon got heavy, Grandma had a 19 inch waist when they were married.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the colorful Indian corn that appeared in stores and markets each autumn. When I was 14, I raised enough potatoes to sell that I was able to buy a horse. When I was 15, I decided to raise Indian corn to sell, knowing that “Don” would happily eat the nubbins and any unsold ears. It was a fair-sized patch that I planted, so it took a lot of hoeing that summer. That was the year that I learned that skunks can climb. I’d assumed that it was young coons eating my corn! I live-trapped them and relocated them. Illegal, probably, but it solved the problem. After I shot the first crow and hung him high on a pole for his kin to see, they stayed out pretty well also.

The ears on my corn grew much larger than the puny things from which I’d taken my seed. Maybe it was all that horse manure that I’d plowed under. Regardless, when fall came, I used baling twine to tie the ears into bundles of three and headed for a couple stores in town. The little mom and pop grocery at the edge of town agreed to carry them on a consignment basis, but the other places I’d thought to try said that they used a particular jobber to supply them and they didn’t want to upset him, since they also depended on him for a lot of other stuff. I was disappointed, but I understood.

I then went to a local florist who stocked a lot of lawn & garden and home décor items. I never got to see the buyer for the store, the lady at the front desk just got on the phone and called to the back, where the buyer said he already had a supplier. On a hunch, I left a couple of my prettiest bundles and ask her to give them to him as a gift from me. Naturally, I left my name and number. By the time that I got back to the farm, the phone was ringing off the hook. The buyer had seen them and wanted a large order immediately, cash on the barrel-head!

I’d purposely planted as great a variety of kernels as possible, and it showed at harvest. Some ears were bright red, some solid purple, some white and others yellow; a few turned out to be a muddy brown. Don got those. It was a fun sort of project. Peeling the shucks back brought eager anticipation as I tried to guess the color and quality of the each ear. Some of my family would occasionally help, just for the fun of that anticipation. Most ears were spotted with kernels of many colors, but my personal favorites were the ones where the individual kernels were striped with various colors. I supplied those two customers until the fall decorating season was over, and I still had enough small, ugly and nubbin ears to supply Don with a couple treats with his (slightly reduced) twice-daily scoop of grain. He usually ate cob and all.

That winter, I took a few dollars from my profits and bought a hand-crank grain mill. The next fall, the family discovered how delicious cornbread can be, when it’s made from freshly ground corn from that year’s crop. When combined with the black-eyed peas I’d grown that summer and a big glass of iced-tea (I live below the Mason-Dixon, so we drink it all year.) it was a meal fit for a king. Of course, the color of the cornbread depended somewhat on the color of the ears ground.

Friends and extended family enjoyed the things they made from my corn-meal, too. One fellow told a funny story about it. I’d picked out some all-purple ears to grind for Bob, the guy who usually did our car repairs. As I ground it one evening under the porch-light, it looked surprisingly grey. Bob said that he thought it had a funny color under the florescent kitchen light, too, as he mixed up a batch of mush to fry for breakfast the next morning. The sun had just risen and a bright ray illuminated Bob’s kitchen the next morning as he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a pan of the prettiest lavender-colored mush that you can ever imagine. It browned up nice in the skillet, but the color reappeared each time he cut it with his fork. He said he’d never eaten a lavender-colored food before, and could only eat it if he didn’t look at it. Laughing as he told the story, he said that he’d use the rest of it, but asked that if I brought any more, that I make it some other color. (I did.)

I raised the colorful corn and sold it until the fall after I got married. The next year, my time had to be spent on more financially productive matters. I stupidly traded off ol’ Don, and didn’t have much time to garden after that anyway. I raised one tiny patch the year after that, just for our own use, but that was the last time. I’m thinking of raising the three sisters of the Native Americans this year in a little spot at the edge of the lawn. I find myself growing increasing desirous of some decent food from my own land, and Indian corn, beans and squash should be a good place to start.

I look back fondly on those days of growing my own food in years past, and I still can’t help but smile every time I think of Bob’s lavender mush! © 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Short Sunday Swing Sitting

The last quarter mile before reaching the driveway, I put the rear left window down to let our Dachshund bark at the scenery to let off any steam not drained by the two short walks I’d given her while in town. Like a little child, she likes to hear her own voice. No doubt her barking is as much what sends the gobbler from our yard into the woods as is the sound of my truck tires rolling along the gravel drive. After parking, I put her leash on and we go over to the black oak where the gobbler had been and look down into the hollow, but the old boy is nowhere to be seen. The ground under the black oak has been scratched through pretty thoroughly. The sweeter white oak acorns are long gone. With no spring shoots, seeds or bugs yet, the bitter acorns that the turkeys had passed over last fall must seem downright delicious as opposed to starvation.

Once the dog has watered and fertilized the lawn, I clean her off and put her in the house. My wife then hands a package of flood-light bulbs out the door and I replace the two bad ones in the fixture near the corner of the porch where we park our vehicles. Slipping the step-ladder into its unseen hiding place under the far end of the porch, I consider pulling some pressure-treated lumber from the same spot, but decide that project had best wait until a sunnier day. After sitting on the edge of the porch for about five minutes, I go to the far end of the wrap-around porch and sit down in the porch swing.

It sounds like rain. The dogs barking in the distance don’t seem as far away as I know them to be. The highway, two miles away as the crow flies, sounds half that distance. Even the two tufted-titmice and the chickadee foraging in the brush 50 feet away sound a bit more raucous than usual. It may smell like rain for all I know, but the cool air doesn’t carry scent well and my sinuses are too stopped up to smell anything less than a skunk anyway.

Sitting here looking into the woods just a few feet away, I mentally sort out a few trees that need cut, in order not to cause problems to the house or to better trees as they get larger. A small doubly-forked chestnut oak looks like a good candidate for a brake for splitting wooden shingles. I’ve never tried that and think it’s about time I put my granddad’s (or was it my great-granddad’s) froe to work for the first time in a century. I’ll have to dull it down a little. Someone had used the wrought iron tool for cutting a couple wires or something and messed up the edge. By the time I got rid of the damage, it was sharper than a froe should be. Too sharp of an edge will put scores in the grain of the wood you’re trying to split and pry apart.

I sit for several minutes, soaking in the sights and sounds of this surprisingly warm February day. There’s a backing wind rustling the few leaves still hanging on the white oaks and a few small beeches scattered among them. Gradually, the eastern side of my body starts feeling the effect of that ill wind and I regretfully retire to the warmth of the house, my spirit a bit calmer from my time watching the woods. © 2013