|Times-Gazette Columns, Page 1 - Highland Press Columns|
|Times-Gazette Columns, Page 2|
|by Larry Chapman|
|These are various columns that were published in the Times-Gazette newspaper|
|Click the desired topic link (Most recent columns are at end of list).|
|Melungeons | Daniel's Pool Hall | Lost Marbles | Joys of Smoking | Trent Lott | Granddaddy's School|
|Cheap People | Today's Kids | BBQ 2003 | A UFO Story | Burying Old Friends | Litter in America|
|Fishing, Food & My Wife | Better Off Today? | Exporting America's Jobs | America's Drinking Laws|
|The Melting Pot | Heaven & Hell | Me & Harry Truman | Greenfield Rocks | Liars and Lying | Banks|
|I'm Socially Liberal | Basic Government Lesson | Social Security | Barbecue 2005 | Andy Rooney & Me|
|Jim Crow In Ohio|
|FEEDBACK TO COLUMNS|
|Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org|
History Month and Jim Crow in
|Published February, 2006|
I was twelve I didn't know what Jim Crow laws were. I also didn’t know
that I was witness to them every day of my young life. Jim Crow is the
name given to all laws, written or unwritten, aimed at segregating the
Uncle Johnny owned a general store in
knew things were different in
some point, however, I must have begun to sense that somehow all these
rules and separations were wrong because I remember getting into
arguments with my cousins about how
for many years I smugly continued to believe that morally, we Yankees
were better people than those Rebs and that we had fought the war for
the altruistic purposes of freeing the slaves and ensuring that all men
will forever be, “created equal.” I
don’t know how old I was when I came to realize that all that was
I was a teen growing up in
mother cooked in a local restaurant and during lunch black men would
come in the back door, drink a beer and eat a sandwich while standing
against the kitchen wall. My mom or someone else would have to go out
front and get their food and drink for them.
was segregated in
we think of segregation and Jim Crow in the South we often think of the
rise and power of the Ku Klux Klan. Many of us don’t know or chose to
forget that the Klan was very powerful here in
you see that all we Yankees have been wrong in thinking of ourselves as
the good guys while chastising the South for all the wrongs perpetrated
on blacks during the days of Jim Crow. Maybe we weren’t “as bad”
but we still behaved badly. Put another way, maybe I deserved all the
thumpins’ my cousin and his friend dished out!
have a couple of reasons for choosing this subject for my February
column. Most obvious is February being Black History Month. When I was
teaching I would have an occasional student ask me why blacks have their
own month? I usually replied, “Because whites have the other eleven
tied up. Don’t you think it’s fair that they get at least one?”
reality there is disagreement, even among blacks, as to whether there
should be a month set aside for Black History. After all, we are all
Americans and our racial/ethnic histories did not occur in separate
vacuums. There is only one story to be told; good and bad, it is the
story of many diverse peoples trying to carve out a fair slice of the
American pie for themselves; often times against the odds and all those
forces that resist change.
don’t have any problem allowing for some time to recognize the trials,
injustices, and accomplishments of a group of Americans who have
arguably had to fight harder than any other segment of our society.
Their fight is not over and, to me; their fight should be our fight.
Personally I think a better
|Top of Page|
|A Brief, Yet Still Confusing, History of America's Political Parties|
|Published January, 2006|
When reading Ryan’s weekly columns I employ the
“Ryan rule”. Assuming his typical column is a thousand words in
length, I will read the first one hundred words. If, during that, he
doesn’t step over the edge, I will finish the column whether I agree
Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the time I enjoy
his columns and even sometimes agree with him. He, like the old Hog
Farmer, ain’t always wrong!
I recently received an email from a reader thanking
me for my column on conservative-liberal points of view (December, 2004)
and stating that it should be required reading in our schools. While I
thank that person for the compliment I have to say that it is
required reading. Those same ideas are found inside every mostly
unopened American Government textbook that ever languished in a
mold-infested high school senior’s locker. Apparently, too many
students opt for an “F” on that test.
This brings me back to one of
First of all, political parties weren’t supposed
to happen. They are not mentioned in either the Articles of
Confederation or the US Constitution. George Washington so disliked and
feared the inception of political parties in
Ironically, it was the debate over ratification of
the Constitution that instigated the birth of parties. The question was,
“What kind of a nation will
What has happened in the two-hundred plus years
since is that party names have changed, some basic ideas have
flip-flopped, and the whole thing has gotten a little more than
Today’s Democrats trace their founding back to
The Federalist Party, led by Alexander Hamilton, believed in a strong centralized national government and political power vested in the hands of a ruling class (aristocracy). What we know as today’s Republican Party didn’t exist yet.
Jumping forward to the 1820s, several things had
begun to change. First, the Federalist, as a party, disappeared and
secondly, political thought evolved and realigned. Under
Today’s Republican Party evolved from a melding
of the old Whig and Free-Soiler parties and believing that the
government should permit free settlement of western lands and that
slavery should be abolished. By
Now, if you’re not totally confused yet, take no
comfort, everything is about to flip. By the late 1800s the Republicans
had become the darlings of the well-heeled, but they also worked to win
Constitutional rights for former slaves and voting rights for women. If
they had kept it up they might have even gone so far as to fight for gay
rights and got an Equal Rights Amendment passed way back when!
The Dems, in the meanwhile, were busy fightin’
for the rights of the common man, speakin’ out for state’s rights,
and getting federal troops out of the South so white folks could do as
If the Ryan Rule didn’t kick in several thousand
words ago you may have noticed that the two parties don’t, in several
ways, fit the typical descriptions we are familiar with today. The Dems
sound more like Pubs and the Pubs more like Dems. That’s because both
parties have done some more flip-flopping since the late 1800s.
Throughout the first seventy years of the twentieth
century the Democrats
continued to become more pro labor, pro farmer, pro working class and
anti big business. It also flopped, beginning with F.D.R., and became
the party of big government and strong centralized power. Since the
1930s it has become the party of social change and inclusion, as it
reached out to blacks, immigrants, and the poor.
have remained the party of big business but they have abandoned the
cause of social change in favor of preserving the status quo.
Additionally, they lost the black vote after enlisting the Dixiecrats
and embracing the white southern voter. They again flopped by adopting
the old Democratic position of state’s rights and weaker central
To many, the parties today are once again
experiencing change. The Republicans are working hard to be more
inclusive as they attempt reaching out to minority voters. Given the
massive deficits of the Reagan and current Bush administrations they may
also be evolving into the party of fiscal irresponsibility, a moniker
the Democrats were long been branded with.
By now I’m getting as tired of writing this column as you must be of reading it. So, permit me to abruptly finish by saying that I hope you have concluded that the important issues have remained pretty constant throughout our history and in vying for our votes the positions of the two major political parties is always shifting. What is considered liberal today may be seen as conservative tomorrow. Given that, my greatest fear is that I’ll live long enough that someday a reader will tell me that I’m the nearest thing to a fascist they’ve ever known.
|Top of Page|
|A Trio of Complaints|
|Published November, 2005|
I recently went camping and fishing in
I hadn’t traveled far on northbound I-95,
however, before the world began to pry its way back into my life. My
right hand kept reaching for the on/off switch of my dashboard radio and
eventually it was permitted to tune in the closest NPR station.
Within minutes I was swept back into the world of
hurricane Wilma’s impending threat to the Florida coastline,
Katrina’s aftermath, FEMA’s failures, the latest death count in
Iraq, the continuing violence in Afghanistan, outsourcing, the CIA leak,
rising fuel prices, Bush’s failing popularity, and more, and more, and
So, now that I’ve made a full recovery from
having vacated reality, I’m going to take this opportunity to blow off
a little steam about a few things I’ve noticed lately.
First of all, I’d like to take issue with those
of you who are critical of the, “Old Hog Farmer.” One of your main
criticisms is that you see his views as being too negative. Well,
isn’t there a major difference between being negative and merely being
real? There are those who live their days in protective bubbles and
mentally create a world that doesn’t really exist. Then, there are
those like the Hog Farmer who simply observe the world with eyes wide
open and attempt to direct our attentions beyond our noses.
For example, since 9/11 the Bush administration and
congress have thrown billions of our tax dollars at homeland security. I
certainly don’t see it as negative to point out that many of these
dollars were wasted, nor have they resulted in increased security. For
example, one state spent over $100,000 to purchase night vision goggles
for its Department of Natural Resources. Another small
Now, you tell me how I’m to feel safer knowing
that nobody’s fooling around down at the co-op? Are farmer’s co-ops
high up on the list of radical Islamic terrorist targets? Finally,
consider the thousands of small communities who received similar monies
and spent it on equally unnecessary items.
Anyway, ease up a little on the Hog Farmer and
consider the merit of what he says before you condemn him as being the
radical, left-wing, Bush hating, liberal that he most likely is. Hey,
even liberals aren’t always wrong!
Some time ago I wrote a column about banks. Well,
once again I feel the need to bust their collective chops.
I recently purchased an item from a person on eBay.
The seller had a pretty good rating input from previous buyers so I felt
reasonably safe sending him, as requested, a bank money order.
Several days after mailing the payment I received
an email from eBay stating that they had suspended the seller’s
trading rights and advising me to stop payment on whatever remuneration
I had submitted.
So, on the next business day I called the bank and
asked if a stop-payment could be issued for a bank money order. I was
told yes but I would have to come into the office, fill out some forms,
and cough up a $28.00 fee. I thanked them, took a few seconds to gather
my thoughts and concluded that I had two options.
One, I could take no action and possibly still
receive my purchase. After all, any complaints against the seller had
not been about buyers not getting what they had paid for. Or, I could
burn up some expensive gasoline, take the time and drive to town, fill
out the necessary paperwork and cough up $28.00.
I quickly decided that my choice was really between
possibly getting burnt by the eBay seller or, for certain, getting burnt
by the bank. I decided for the unknown rather than the known. Can you
say “banks” without feeling the need to gargle?
Another bone of contention for me lately is state
and federal grants and the irresponsible way in which local governments
view them. I’m sure that all of you have heard some administrator or
politician say, “Well, this money is from a grant and if we don’t
spend it we’ll lose it.” They
seem to think that grant money is not tax payer money and somehow it’s
better to use it for whatever, rather than not take it or give it back
to the granting agency. Here are a couple of questions that our leaders
should honestly consider before they consider spending grant money.
First, is the grant necessary and will the
community experience real and lasting value from it? The
Secondly, before accepting grant money for some
project consider if the community will be able to maintain the project
after it is completed. On more than one occasion I’ve seen communities
receive grant money, complete the project, and then permit it to go to
seed because they don’t have the funds necessary for maintenance.
You know, to fess up a little, I’m not really all
that bothered about the things I’ve written about in this column. I
just needed a quick topic in order to earn a few more bucks so I can get
|Top of Page|
|Published October, 2005|
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column in which I
mentioned stopping in
Now there is a lot to be said about
And, the people of
About the only negative thing one can say about this
group is that they, like those who moved to
Now, I’m not trying to cast a broad net here, but
it’s from this group that many of the negative ideas and stereotypes
about Kentuckians arise. Unfortunately,
If you find it hard to accept the above-mentioned
idea, just consider
One of the things that bothers me most about these
transplanted hill jacks is how they cling to their pasts. You rarely hear
them praise or thank
And another thing, have you noticed how Kentuckians
never say what town they’re from? You’ll never hear them say, “I’m
from Starvation Flats, KY,” or “I’m from Dismal Seepage, KY.”
Instead they’ll say, “Well, I’m from
Dislocated Kentuckians hang onto anything made or
Their love of all things
Now my purpose here wasn’t to upset anyone, too
much. I’ve simply attempted to point out some of our neighboring
state’s assets and failings and to arrive at a little humor at other
people’s expense. I hope none of the “brother briars” that frequent
the truck stop are overly offended. After all, they’ve fired a few shots
at us Ohioans over the years. I remember crossing the I-275 Bridge with
one of them once. As we passed under the Welcome to
|Top of Page|
|Published August, 2005|
For many years I’ve been interested in Southern
culture and food. About fifteen years ago this interest evolved into a
love of blues music and blues history. The blues that most people are
familiar with is probably that performed by such greats as Stevie Ray
Vaughn and B.B. King. The blues that I’m most interested in is far more
raw and basic. It’s the blues that was born in the cotton fields of the
Mississippi Delta and came out of hard times and hard living.
This blues is called country blues or Delta blues. It
is acoustic music played on cheap instruments by people with no formal
musical training and only the most basic vocabularies. It is rough, and
crude, and unrefined, but the lyrics tell great stories of life, be it
hard times or good, love gone wrong or love at its best. It’s the music
that reinforced how tough life could be and it is also the music that
swept away reality on Saturday night when a few dollars could buy you some
beer at a local juke joint.
There are lots of places that lay claim to being the
birthplace of something. Memphis claims to be the home of rock and roll
and Jackson, Tennessee, claims rockabilly. But, if any town has a valid
claim, it’s Clarksdale, Mississippi. The proof is in drawing a
fifty-mile wide circle on a map with Clarksdale at its center. Then create
a list of bluesmen that were born, raised or spent much of their adult
lives inside that circle. The list will include such names as Ike Turner,
Sam Cooke, Charlie
Patton, Bukka White, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, Son House,
Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Besides these who became famous, there
are dozens more who achieved little or no fame. The musicologist Alex
Lomax once said that Clarksdale was responsible for more bluesmen than any
place on earth.
Clarksdale area is filled with historical icons of Delta blues history.
The nearby town of Tutwiler is where W.C. Handy (considered the father of
the blues) first observed a black itinerant musician singing about a place
where two railroad lines cross and accompanying himself on a cheap guitar
using a pocketknife as a slide. According to Handy, “It was the weirdest
music I’d ever heard.” Because of this historical occasion, Tutwiler
also lays claim to being the birthplace of the blues and proclaims such
high on its water tower.
is also the final resting place of Sonny Boy Williamson II. Williamson,
also known as Rice Miller, is considered to have been the greatest blues
harp player in history. His style set the standard for all who followed.
the rural areas around Clarksdale were huge cotton plantations such as
Stovall and Hopson. It was on these plantations that many of the greats
were born, grew up, worked, learned the hardships of being poor, and later
fled. Several plantations still exist and one, Hopson, is trying to
preserve its place in blues history by offering tours and converting its
field hand housing into sleeping quarters for tourists.
In Clarksdale itself, you’ll find the Riverside
Hotel on Sunflower Ave. Once a Negro hospital, it is the site where Bessie
Smith died following an automobile crash in 1937. After World War II the
hospital was converted into a hotel, catering to black travelers it became
a haven for black musicians performing in the area. You name the artist
and he or she has spent time at the Riverside Hotel. The hotel is still
open and caters to blues fans from all over the world. The room in which
Smith died is filled with mementos about her and open to the public.
on which music historian you want to believe, the Riverside can also lay
claim to being the birthplace of rock and roll. In 1951, in the hotel’s
basement, Ike Turner cut a demo tape of Rocket 88, a number that
many to consider to be the first rock and roll tune. The tape was later
sent to Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis and turned into a hit for
down Sunflower, and across from the cemetery, sits Red’s Lounge. Red’s
is probably the last true juke joint in Clarksdale. It’s only open when
Red is in the mood and I was fortunate enough to be there when he was.
Greenwood, MS’s T-Model Ford was the attraction that night. T-Model is
nearing 80 but still plays a strong guitar. Testifying to the
international popularity of the blues there were at least four Germans, an
Englishman and a young man from Japan in the crowd that evening. The
Germans and the Brit even picked up instruments and took a turn at the
microphone between sets.
much to keep alive the blues tradition of the Clarksdale area is the Delta
Blues Museum. Located in the old railway station and adjoining warehouse,
the museum is a major repository of blues history and memorabilia. It is
the place where you’ll want to begin your visit to Mississippi’s
next door to the museum, in an old commercial building, is the Ground Zero
Blues Club. It was founded in 2001 by Clarksdale homeboy and actor, Morgan
Freeman. The attempt was to recreate the look and feel of a traditional
juke joint and breathe new life into the area’s native music. Guessing
from the Saturday evening I spent there, it is working. The place was
packed with people from many backgrounds, races and nationalities; all
sharing in the emotion of this thing called the blues.
few miles out of Clarksdale I stopped along the roadside and walked a few
feet into a cotton field. Standing there in the 105-degree temperature I
reflected on what it must have been like to spend endless twelve-hour days
chopping cotton in these fields, countless years of backbreaking toil for
little money and even less chance of attaining a better way of life.
It’s easy to see why Mississippi’s Delta became the birthplace of the
|Top of Page|
|On The Road; Kuralt Style|
|Published July, 2005|
I feel a little like Charles Kuralt in that I’m filing this column from “On The Road” and, in the Kuralt tradition, I’m going to attempt telling you about a few of the places I’ve visited in the past several days.
Years ago I began hearing about the Memphis In May (MIM) barbecue competition. It is a weeklong contest, billed as the “Largest Pork Barbecue Cooking Contest On The Planet. Every year since I’ve wanted to experience it. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. Same thing this year, May came and went and I stayed at home. The fact that over 90,000 people, from all over the world, descend on Memphis during the week has something to do with it. As I’ve aged I have developed an increasing dislike for large crowds.
As an alternative to actually attending MIM, I paid their web site a visit and discovered that they offer classes training people to become certified barbecue judges and qualifying to become judges at MIM. “Wow,” I say to myself, “this could be the answer.” Go to Memphis, sit in a classroom, learn the fine points of judging quality barbecue (this has to involve tasting quality barbecue), get invited to judge and, without having to elbow your way up to the table with 90,000 other porkers, head for Memphis next spring.
So, I paid my tuition and departed home a couple of days ago headed for Memphis. Since the purpose of the trip was to learn about good barbecue, I decided to do a little studying along the way. Kind of like homework, don’t you know!
Day one’s destination was Owensboro, KY. Owensboro bills itself as the Barbecue Capital of the World. That’s a stretch and likely coined by a Chamber of Commerce type who hadn’t traveled much. What is unique about Owensboro, however, is that people native to that area think barbecue involves slow cooking mutton.
Seems as though that part of Kentucky was heavily settled by folks from Wales and instead of raising hogs and cows, they planted sheep. So, as they developed a barbecue tradition it became centered on smoked mutton.
The most famous of the area’s barbecue restaurants is Owensboro’s Moonlite Barbecue Inn. I was familiar with the Moonlite from having watched too many barbecue shows on the Food Channel. By the way, is it possible that the Food Channel is high in caloric content? I swear I’ve put on 50 pounds from nothing more than watching their programs. Anyway, the Moonlite is world famous, highly touted, and hard to find. It won’t do you much good to ask a local for directions. I asked four people and everyone said, “Now let me see, I know where it is but I can’t tell you how to get there.” Someone finally told me it was on West Parrish Street and I from there I found it on my own.
The Moonlite was an excellent experience. You can order off the menu but the big attraction is the buffet. Besides a large selection of quality salads and sides the buffet featured both smoked pork and mutton in chopped and pulled variations. I dished up a little of each and headed for my table.
The pork was very good, very moist with a mild smoky flavor and all the signs that tell you it was prepared by someone who knew what they were doing. The mutton, however, is another story. Having never knowingly eaten sheep, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everyone I’ve spoken to about barbecued mutton immediately turned up his or her nose. Most comments went something like, “There ain’t nothin’ you can do to hide the taste of a smelly old yew.”
Armed with those opinions I wasn’t sure what to expect but I decided if it was good enough for the Welsh, it was worth a try from me. My thoughts on barbecued mutton are two. First, it didn’t smell and, in small servings, it wasn’t bad. Secondly, I’m glad I grew up in an area settled by pig eatin’ Germans.
Another item common to the Owensboro region is burgoo. Burgoo is a soup or stew that somewhat resembles vegetable soup with some kind of meat thrown in. If you're familiar with the Brunswick stew that's common to the Carolinas you've eaten something close to burgoo. A major difference will be the meat; you won't find any mutton in Brunswick stew.
My next barbecue homework self-assignment was Marlowe’s Ribs and Restaurant in Memphis. Marlowe’s is a regular participant in MIM and has a huge collection of trophies on display testifying to the quality of their product. The pulled pork was excellent having both moisture and a pleasant smoky flavor. The sauce was typical of Memphis, very red, very sweet, but lacking in heat or zest. As good as Marlowe’s barbecue was, however, the sides, in my case onion rings and baked beans, struggled to just be average. This is a failing common to many barbecue joints.
I’m writing this column before having attended the MIM judging school. It will be interesting, and a subject for another column, to see if my opinion of the Moonlite, Marlowe’s, and all the other barbecue places I’ve visited, changes any.
wonder if what I’ve come to think I know about quality barbecue stacks
up to what those who judge MIM’s Super Bowl of Swine think they know.
After all, I could have been wrong all these years. But, if I was, it
just proves that being wrong can be lotsa’ fun!
|Top of Page|
|Andy Rooney & Me|
|Published May, 2005|
A lot of people don’t like Andy Rooney. I, however,
have always enjoyed him and as I age, hope that I am able to someday rise
to the level of curmudgeonry he has attained, albeit, without the
Rooney is always able to find something irritating or
objectionable with our society, our culture, our politics, our religions,
and more. Often, his concerns seem petty but given he’s only allotted a
few minutes each week, he can’t delve into many major problems.
One of the things I like most about Mr. Rooney is his
willingness to take on subjects many people don’t want to talk about.
Like the time he peeved off the female populace by expressing his belief
that women have no place in covering professional football. More than once
CBS has had to take the heat for his comments and once, in 1990, they even
suspended him from the 60 Minutes lineup for a comment he allegedly made
Instead of getting riled up, however, those who are
the subjects of his jabs should first consider the intent and content.
They may discover that what he has said is something that needed saying,
needs to be seriously considered and possibly used as a catalyst for
change. Only then, should he be labeled a crazy old man who is out of
touch with the 21st century.
Well, if I’m ever to become the curmudgeon I dream
of being, I need to throw a few barbs. So, let’s begin with cell phones.
Last week I observed a group of 6 teenagers hanging
out together in downtown Greenfield. Instead of enjoying each other’s
company half of them had a cell phone glued to their ear. Possibly they
had some kind of conference call going on. Later, the same group was at
McDonald’s and again, half were talking to friends on their phones and
while the phoneless sat mutely in their seats.
Another thing that bothers me are people who get
indignant if you stare at their tattoos and pierced protrusions. Why,
otherwise, would a person go through the pain, suffering, monetary expense
and disownership of their parents if they didn’t want to draw attention
to themselves. In my day only 2 kinds of men had their bodies pierced,
gays and pirates. Don’t recall last time I saw a pirate sitting in a
restaurant sipping a double wild strawberry vanilla mocha latte.
I also don’t like calling people who have cute
little messages on their answering machine. I called an acquaintance the
other day and was treated to, “Hi, you have reached the Smith’s. Bob,
Carol, Teddy and baby Alice can’t come to the phone right now because
they’re either not home or they’re having quality family time.”
What’s wrong with a simple, “please leave a message”?
Speaking of being too cutesy, I can’t stand the
cutesy news that for too many years has been posing as quality, content
orientated, news coverage. What’s with this I-Team, Storm Team, Action
Team 5 crap that takes control of our local TV channels between 5 and 6:30
each evening? At best these
Sky News Team members prove that they can read, maintain the appropriate
facial expression dictated by the icon next to each story, speak without a
regional accent, and had parents who could afford orthodontia when they
were teens. What they don’t display is any indication that they
understand the significance of what they’re reading. A case in point
happened a few years ago when Ohio’s farmers were dealing with one of
the most severe droughts in our history. They were on the verge of loosing
everything when a Cincinnati weatherman mindlessly blurted out that,
“hopefully the rain will hold off and not ruin the weekend.” A major
segment of the state’s economy was facing ruin and all this dude could
think of is working on his tan.
Another thing I find distracting is overweight women
sportin’ hip huggers and tube tops. I think it is amazing that just as
America reached an obesity crisis, Brittany Spears, and others,
popularized the bare midriff look. Look, I’ll make you tube top tubbies
a deal, cover up the tire and I’ll quit wearing Speedos to the YMCA.
And finally, what’s the deal with cemetery
decorations these days? Every time I drive by a cemetery I get the feeling
the carnival has come to town. You can easily distinguish the new section
of most cemeteries. It’s there you’ll find all the Day-Glo colored
baskets of plastic flowers, silver Mylar whirly gigs, plastic beads and
trinkets hanging from steal hooks driven into the ground, and growing
numbers of solar powered eternal memory tombstone lights. It’s enough to
raise the dead!
You know, maybe there’s another reason Andy Rooney and we fellow curmudgeons do what we do. It’s just plain fun to put your tongue in your cheek and let her rip!
|Top of Page|
|State of the Barbeque, 2005|
|Published April 2005|
years ago CBS’s Sunday Morning did a segment on a then 85-year-old
Annie May Ward. Annie May operated the New Zion Missionary Baptist
Church Barbecue in Huntsville, TX. It began by accident a number of
years ago as a means to raise money for the church next door. By
international reputation, Annie May’s, “is the world’s best BBQ”
and is known to the locals as the Church of the Holy Smoke. After seeing
that episode I decided a pilgrimage, to what some consider the Holy
Grail of Cue, was in order.
proceeding I need to share with you a few of definitions for types of
BBQ places I recently came across. First there is the BBQ restaurant. In
it you will find matching furniture, easy listening background music,
and printed menus. They also accept credit cards and are members of the
local chamber of commerce.
you’ll run into BBQ joints. Joints have screened doors, a jukebox,
sell beer, the menu is written on a blackboard, the cook is nicknamed
Bubba and they only accept cash.
there are dives. You’ll recognize dives because the door screen is
torn, the employees are all tattooed, they sell beer and whiskey, the
cook’s real name Is Bubba, and she has a prison record.
must be said, however, that great, average and horrible barbecue can be
found in all.
back to the story, a year ago Danny Masters and I headed out for
Huntsville, TX. First night out we ate at Corky’s BBQ (a chain of
restaurants) in Tunica, MS. The ribs were dry style (seasoned with a rub
rather than a sauce) and tasty but the meat had lost too much moisture
in the cooking. Next day we stopped at Bill’s BBQ in Tallulah, LA (definitely a dive) and tried to eat what may have been the
world’s worst ribs; greasy spareribs swimming in a dark, murky, zing
we arrived at Annie May’s (certainly a joint minus the jukebox and
beer) just in time for lunch. After entering I instantly recognized
Annie May behind the counter manning the cash register and telephone. I
stepped up to order and told her we had driven all the way from Ohio to
see her. Her instant response was to ask, “Well, how I look?”
for a lady in her late 80s she looked wonderful and we couldn’t wait
to dig in. At her suggestion we ordered the sampler plate, which
consisted of all you could eat, spareribs, beef brisket and smoked
sausage along with slaw, potato salad, white bread and sweet tea. Sadly,
I wasn’t very impressed. The meats were okay but certainly not,
“world class”. The sauces were simply sad, like Bill’s they were
very dark and lacking in both flavor and zing.
in all, however, it was a worthwhile experience. Annie May is a legend
and her joint is a classic. Sadly, I don’t think she is able to work
in the restaurant any longer. Recent news articles indicate other church
members are now running things.
after eating in several more southwest BBQ places, I have concluded I
just don’t like their style. I’m too acquainted with Carolina
barbecue and to me; nothing else begins to match up. The same cannot,
however, be said about the Mexican food we ate while in Texas, Mexico,
New Mexico and Oklahoma. Now those folks know how to cook!
almost lost track of the barbecue places I’ve tried in the past year.
Some of them deserve to be forgotten but you cue lovers need to know
about a few.
too far from us is the Stagecoach Barbecue on US 23 in South Bloomfield,
just north of Circleville. Four of us paid them a visit during the
winter and departed stuffed and very impressed. No one had any
complaints and for me, the hit of the evening was the smoked turkey,
fried green beans and Marena’s chocolate chip bread pudding.
want to drive that far? Try out the Old Canal House Smoked Meats
restaurant on Water Street in Chillicothe. We’ve eaten there several
times now and not been disappointed. The pulled pork is very good, the
side dishes are excellent, great cornbread, and as good a sauces as
you’ll find outside North Carolina. I especially like the apple cider
you’re headed for South Carolina this summer keep an eye out for a
Duke’s BBQ (there are several of them and they are restaurants). I
picked up a sandwich at the drive-thru in Walterboro, SC and the mustard
sauce was to die for. It was the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever
eaten and one of these days I’m going back for the full sit down
the most unique place I’ve been in lately was Pete Jones’ Skylight
Inn (another joint without music or beer) in Ayden, NC. Pete has been
cooking whole hogs with wood since 1947 and claims that his family has
been cooking BBQ on the same property since 1830.
people claim his to be the capital of North Carolina barbecue and that
may account for the large silver replica of the capital dome sitting
atop his otherwise non-descript building.
is plain Jane BBQ. You order at a counter from an extremely limited
menu. Your choices are chopped pork barbecue, vinegar slaw, and
chitlin’ cornbread, sweet tea or soda pop, and nothing else. You can
choose small, medium or large portions but the serving procedure remains
the same. A sheet of wax paper is laid on the counter and a paper boat
of BBQ placed in its middle. Next, a thin square of very dense
chitlin’ cornbread is placed on top followed by a paper boat of slaw
and a plastic fork. The items are wrapped up in the wax paper and handed
to you along with a Styrofoam cup for your sweet tea. Could it be less
complicated? Fork over $4.50 for a medium, squeeze a little red pepper
vinegar sauce on it and dig in.
Christmas, my sister-in-law, Ruby, gave me a book listing all the best
barbecue restaurants, joints and dives in North Carolina (I already have
the one for SC). Thumbing through its pages I enjoyed knowing that I had
already visited many of them. But, there are far more that I haven’t
tried. So, if you enjoy reading these occasional BBQ columns, I don’t
mind doing the research. Bonne appepig, mon ami!
|Top of Page|
|Social Security; My Take!|
|Published March, 2005|
Like many of you, I have had many recent
opportunities to participate in discussions about the status and future
of social security. Since I’m over 55 and receive very little of my
retirement income from social security I really don’t have any urgent
reason to be too concerned about its future. However, for the good of my
children, grandchildren and younger Americans all of us have a vested
interest in how this issue plays out.
One of my major concerns about Bush’s approach is
the denial of social security’s historical past and the realities of
Prior to the advent of this 70-year-old program
Americans relied on their children and families, their private savings
and investments, their neighbors, their churches and private charities
to provide for them when they were no longer able to support themselves.
For many this system worked well enough except
during periods of economic downturn. For the working poor, however, it
was never a workable solution. It is extremely difficult for the poor to
engage in savings under any conditions.
During economic downturns people frequently found
their jobs, investments and savings swept away in bank failures, stock
market crashes, general business failure, and rising unemployment. Such
was the case in the 1930s when the Great Depression presented Americans
with the deepest economic slump in their history.
Now, in case you didn’t notice. What I just
described was a totally “privatized” system and nakedly subject to
the risk and fluctuations of the economy. So, when Bush continues to
insist that social security be privatized he denies that we’ve “been
there, done that” and that it didn’t work.
Realizing that something
had to be done to reduce the suffering experienced by the elderly during
the depression, President Franklin Roosevelt initiated the Social
Security Act of 1935. The idea was to mandate savings to help offset the
needs of the aging. It was never meant to be the sole income for
retirees but to act as a safety net to provide some guaranteed, risk
free, income in the face of certain future economic uncertainty.
Even with social
security, it remained, and remains, imperative that individuals manage
their earnings in a sound and prudent fashion, to set aside as much as
possible in savings and investments as a hedge against old age. In
Bush’s vernacular, people need, “personal investment accounts.”
Well Dubya, people
already have many opportunities for personal investment accounts far
beyond just social security. We already have the opportunity to invest
in passbook savings plans, money markets, bank certificates of deposit,
the stock and bond markets, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401K
plans, tax deferred annuities, real estate, and countless other avenues
of financial planning.
Having considered a
little history and a couple of current realities I just don’t
understand why we would want to reintroduce the risk factor to a risk
less system that has worked wonderfully for 70 years. Similarly, I
can’t understand why we would want to draw funds away from the social
security system to establish personal investment accounts when such
already exists aplenty.
I am full aware that social security needs some
attention. The system has an Achilles’ heal; the ratio of working
Americans to those drawing benefits is in decline. In 1950 there were 15
workers paying into the system for every retiree drawing a check. Today,
that ratio is just a little over 3 workers to 1 recipient.
Look, social security is not broken and it is not
broke. It needs some attention but the situation is not the crisis that
Bush and his minions are suggesting. By the president’s own admission
the system will remain solvent until 2042. That gives us 37 or more
years to break out our tweakers and make a few adjustments. We certainly
don’t have to rush in and throw the baby out with the proverbial
Social security has always been a thorn in the side
of the conservative right and since it’s beginning its elimination has
always been one of their goals. Don’t accept this; simply do a little
historical research. As I view it, this is but one more conservative
attack against this proven piece of New Deal legislation. Why can’t
they just accept the 70-year old truth that social security works, is
working, and with some prudent thought, can continue to work well into
|Top of Page|
|A Basic Government Lesson|
Published December, 2004
In November my column attempted to defend social
liberalism and to express my viewpoint on a couple of issues important
to those of us trying to maintain our individuality in a society that
doesn’t always appreciate people being individuals.
There were several reasons why I chose liberalism
as my topic. One was to offer a different perspective to the usual
editorial content of the Times-Gazette while another was, as stated in
the column, to demonstrate to a couple of my coffee sippin’ buddies
what it means to be a social liberal.
When the column was published I asked one of them
what he thought. He responded that he agreed with about 75 percent of
it. I requested that he point out specifically which 25 percent he
didn’t agree with so I could focus on those things and write a column
he didn’t agree with 100 percent. I will freely admit that my goal is
to jab this fellow in any of his ribs.
A day or so later he volunteered that my statement
that both conservative and liberal ideologies, “have something to be feared. They both have extreme
fringes that are dangerous to the civil liberties of us who live in the
great middle. The far right would just as surely deny me my rights as
the extreme left would deny you yours” Confused him. He didn’t
believe the right offered anything to be fearful of.
After further discussion it became clear to me that he was one of those
too many people who for years supported America’s opposition to the
spread of communism without really understanding what communism is. In
fact, he confessed that he had always thought that Adolph Hitler and the
doctrine of fascism lay to the left of the political spectrum and that
fascism and communism were the same. He, in effect, has failed to
realize that fascism is the right’s answer to the left’s communism.
I have no idea how many Americans clearly fail to understand the spectrum
of political ideology but my intuition tells me there are many. Having
taught government for many years I do know that it’s something that
many people struggle with. For those of you who remain confused, let an
old teacher give it one more try. Here’s your lesson for today.
First of all, imagine a line drawn on a piece of paper with a mark
indicating its middle. This line represents the scope of political
thinking and near that middle mark can be found the ideas that most
people believe in. As you move away from that middle marker, however,
you are heading to one of the two extremes in political philosophy.
The further to the left your beliefs go the more you believe that
citizens should equally share in the wealth of the nation, that all work
is of equal value and that no job should pay more than any other. You
also believed that private property is a bane to society and should be
To the far right you’ll find folks who see the world in sort of dog eat
dog terms. The acquisition of private property and wealth is the
economic motivator and, like in the game of Monopoly, it’s just fine
to wind up with more than anyone else.
A typical example of the above involves wages. Most people in the middle
believe that work should bring with it at least a minimum wage. However,
as you move further to the right you begin to encounter the idea that
employers should only have to pay what workers are willing to accept. To
the left you’ll find workers banding together into labor unions and
using their collective power to force employers to increase labor’s
share of the profits.
The same thinking applies to things like taxes, social services, medical
treatment, etc. The right would lessen taxes and place more of the
burden of acquiring basic services and medical care on the individual.
The left, conversely, believes that the wealthy should pay higher taxes
and those monies should go to help meet the basic needs of all.
Both extremes believe that government has a part to play. To the left it
is government’s role to force and maintain the equal distribution of
wealth and on the right government’s job is to protect the accumulated
wealth of those who have won the game. While they appear to be vastly
different, both extremes do share something in common. They both demand
near total conformity to a doctrine and neither is reluctant to use
physical force to impose that conformity.
The two greatest examples of this involve the left’s Joseph Stalin and
the right’s Adolph Hitler. Stalin, the communist, is responsible for
the estimated death of over 20 million people during his reign. On the
right, fascist dictator Hitler is responsible for an additional 20
million victims. Many of those who died were simply folks in the middle
who offered resistance or represented some threat to the extreme.
Please don’t lose sight that all these ideas exist in degrees. Most
people on either side of the middle mark see some value in the basic
ideas of either side. You can be a little liberal or a little
conservative and still be on solid ground. The danger is only when
political philosophy begins moving too far in either direction. That’s
when the extremists begin reaching into their bag of dirty tricks and
people begin disappearing in the night.
If the population were equally divided along this political spectrum
there would be few threats to individual liberty. However, such is not
the case. That middle mark doesn’t always stay put, it slowly swings
back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. Right now it is swinging to
the right meaning that we are becoming a more conservative nation and as
the middle becomes more conservative it becomes a growing threat to the
freedom of those who remain liberal in their thought.
This swing accounts for the renewed discussion of Constitutional
amendments to ban same-sex marriages, protect the flag from desecration,
and force the imposition of pro-life ideas. If it continues to swing to
the right these threats to individual liberty could become a reality.
My intention here is not to make this a textbook or get into some deep
debate on political ideology. My intention is to provide a few simple
definitions and examples of political thought in the hope that we will
all have a better understanding of what we share in common, the dangers
we face, and possibly think twice about the labels we stick on
If I’ve accomplished my purpose, you’ll be able to read the
editorials in this newspaper and clearly understand why my views are
considered liberal and the editor’s, Rory Ryan, conservative. Consider
that your final exam and if you need any help I’ll be in the
teachers’ lounge wishing I still smoked.
Oh, I know it’s politically incorrect but what the heck, have a Merry
|Top of Page|
|I'm An Unabashed Social Liberal|
Published November, 2004
I was having coffee at the truck stop on
Wednesday following the election and during the conversation I stated
that I probably believed in a greater degree of personal freedom than
most of those present. As an example I volunteered that I was most
likely the only one in the place who had voted against Proposition 1 to
ban same sex marriages in Ohio. I further stated that I was a social
liberal, took pride in being so, and didn't view liberal as a dirty
word. The immediate response from one fellow was to sharply question my
sanity. “You must be insane,” he bellowed.
After lots of further discussion, and
while I was leaving, that same fellow said, "Now he says he's a
liberal but when you read those columns he writes, there's nothing
liberal about them." So, for that fellow I decided to write a
column that was unabashedly and without question, liberal.
I do, in fact, believe that people
should have a high degree of personal freedom. I know there has to be
limits but I am far less willing to be the person to set those limits
than the majority of my more conservative friends. Additionally, my
limits would permit a lot more room for personal freedoms and behavior,
even if I found those to be repugnant. If my neighbor wants to paint his
house hot pink he should be permitted to do so, even if it keeps me
awake at night and makes me want to puke. However, if hot pink is proven
to attract disease-carrying vermin that threaten the neighborhood's
health, then government should possibly step in.
The same holds true if my neighbors
happen to be a married, same sex, couple. It may make me uncomfortable,
it may offend my values, but until it is proven to be a direct, and
serious, threat to my safety, so what? And, if I give them a chance, I
may find them to be likeable folks who basically want the same things
out of life in America that I do.
To me, marriage, as defined by
religious tenet can, and should, coexist with marriage as defined by
civil law. But, the civil definition of marriage should not exclude the
diversity of American society. After all, marriage defined by religious
law bridges the wall of separation demanded by the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution requires that the laws of the land apply equally
to all its citizens and to apply a single, religious based, definition
of something so personal as marriage would certainly result in an
unequal application and thus violate the rights of many.
Conservatives spend lots of time
espousing about freedom and liberty but, too often, they seem willing to
extend freedom to just those who share their life style, attitudes,
aspirations, religion, sexual preference, etc.
Possibly Maine’s former governor,
Angus King, said it best when he stated that our society has enemies,
“They are poverty, disease, and ignorance; they are not gay people.”
Another fellow at the table that
morning was lamenting about how Kerry supporters seemed to be clustered
along the Pacific Coast and the Northeast. "Why is that?” he
asked. Well, I’m sure there are lots of answers but to begin with,
those red-blue election maps distort the truth. They only show how the
majority voted. They do not show that lots of voters in all our states
voted for the other side.
However, it is true that Democrats
have a larger support base along the coastlines and in our major urban
centers. This is partly a result of those areas being more ethnically
and culturally diverse than in the so-called heartland. A consequence of
experiencing population diversity is increased tolerance for ideas,
beliefs, lifestyles, etc. that differ from the norm and liberals, by
definition, are a more tolerant lot.
Over the years I taught history and
government I noticed that the most tolerant students in my classroom
were often the children of people who, by the nature of their
employment, had lived in a variety of places. These kids had simply seen
and experienced more than the other students and knew that there was
often, “More than one way to skin a cat.”
You may have noticed in my previous
columns that I rarely attempt providing a finite answer to problems.
Well, that too is part of being a liberal; we liberals flip-flop.
Liberals accept that there is usually more than one correct answer to a
problem and that very often, what was accepted as being correct ceases
to be correct. Thus, changes in positions and approaches become
My position on the Iraq War provides
an example. I sat on my sofa listening to Colin Powell address the UN
about Iraq’s threat to the world. After listening to him speak and
considering all the evidence he presented, I went to town and, over
lunch, told a friend that the nation had no choice but to take Saddam
So, guess what happened? Essentially,
everything Powell said that day, and all his evidence, turned out to be
incorrect or highly suspect. I don’t think Secretary Powell was lying,
I simply think he was given bad advice and inaccurate information.
Coming to realize this, was I to remain firm in my support of our
preemptive military action? Should I ignore or discount the
ever-emerging facts, or should my position reflect the updated
information? Well, my position did change and if that makes me a
flip-flopper I can only say that being so permits me to sleep well at
Over the years I’ve observed that
very few laymen could accurately define the term communism. Yet, they
willingly approved billions of their tax dollars spent in defense of it.
The same is true of the political terms conservative and liberal. People
use them to evaluate and/or accuse others but too often don’t have
much of a clue as to their true meanings.
The truth is that both ideologies
have something to be feared. They both have extreme fringes that are
dangerous to the civil liberties of us who live in the great middle. The
far right would just as surely deny me my rights as the extreme left
would deny you yours. Regardless of our political or social
philosophies, a thing we share in common is the threat from those
|Top of Page|
|Got Them Mean Banker, Mayonnaise Jar Blues!|
|Published October, 2004|
When old blues men sang about having the blues they
were talking about things like suffering the ills of poverty, woman
troubles, loneliness or being mistreated by the boss man. Well, I’ve
got the blues but it’s not from anything so serious.
My case of the blues has two causes. First, I’ve
run out of ideas for my monthly column. I’ve wanted to engage in a
pre-election rant about the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, the
failing economy, the lack of decent jobs, the declining middle-class and
not being chosen as the poster child for the Preparation-H Float in this
year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. However, since everyone
already seems to have decided whom they’ll vote for, and I personally
have tired of politics, that won’t work.
The second cause of my blues is having my favorite
fishing hole, Sebastian Inlet, Florida take direct hits from both
hurricanes Francis and Jeanie and my next favorite, Pensacola, Florida,
literally destroyed by Ivan. Furthermore, Jeanne swept into coastal
North Carolina and postponed a planned fishing trip to that locale. I
wonder if there’s an old blues song titled, “Can’t Go Fishin’ No
So, here I sat with nothing to occupy my time and
nothing to write about when out of the blue (notice that connection)
came the postman (dressed in blue) with a letter from Master Card. My
wife opened it and exclaimed, “They’re ought to be a law against
this! How can they get away with this kind of thing?”
What she was reacting to were some policy changes
being addressed by a bank regarding our credit card. We were informed
that in the future, any payment received late would result in a $39 late
fee. Now, she was hot and I tried to temper her anger by saying that
we’re not alone in this; everyone has a complaint about banks and
their ever-growing list of fees and incidental service charges.
I remembered a bit that comedian Tim Wilson did on
banks and dug out the CD so my wife could hear his take on the problem.
He covered such experiences as being charged a $30 fee for bouncing a $3
check. Wilson’s response was, “Hell, if I don’t have $3 I damn
sure don’t have $33!” He continued by telling of a bank in Atlanta
that charged $3 for simply telling you the balance in your savings
account. He said, “I walked in and asked the teller how much money was
in my account and she replied, ‘$300, well, $297 now.’ I said
loudly, HOW MUCH? She replied, ‘Uh, $294.’ So, what you’re sayin’
is, if I ask another 98 times I’ll be broke!”
Well, we all have more than one such story to tell
and if you’re my age you know that it all began when banks ceased
providing free checks and checking accounts. Now days, there’s very
little to find at a bank that’s free. However, in fairness, the teller
at the Merchant’s Bank drive thru window did give my dog Sam a Milk
Bone biscuit the last time we made a deposit. Tim Wilson thinks that
banks should give customers at least a bag of Tootsie Rolls for every
$100 they deposit; “Hell, I grew up on bank candy,” he related.
Myself, I would prefer a box of Russell Stover’s.
What seemed to finally establish banks, as the subject of this column was an experience I recently had while applying for a personal note. I had a CD maturing in a couple of weeks but needed some cash to buy a different vehicle. I thought I’d simply take out a short-term note until I received the money from the CD.
So, I called the loan officer at a local bank and
asked about getting a note. I was told that it would be no problem but
that there would be interest charged on the note plus a $125 processing
fee for filling out the paperwork. I said, “$125!” and the bank dude
said, “Yeah, we never use to charge anything for this but everyone
else started so we did too.” Then he said, “We didn’t charge as
much but everyone else kept raising their rates so we did too.”
Now, as I was absorbing this input something just
didn’t seem right. It wasn’t until I had hung up and thought about
it for a moment that it hit me. What kind of an lame ass excuse was that
for bilking customers out of more of their hard won monies? We’re
doing it because everyone else is; we’re raising our fees because
everyone else has. You just ask any of our 3 children (now adults) what
would have happened if they had come home late and said that they did so
because all their friends were breaking their parental curfews! So, if
you’re that loan officer and you recognize yourself, take 30-days off
without pay, you’re grounded!
I was watching the news recently and they were
telling of a woman who had several credit cards maxed-out and failed to
make the payment on one of her cards on time. Automatically, her
interest rate was jumped to over 24 percent. Worse yet, that bank shared
this info with her other banks and they all jumped her rate to 24
percent, even though she was on time with each of them. Their collective
rationale was that if they didn’t treat such marginal risks this way,
fewer people would be denied credit cards. Now there’s a concept,
people who don’t qualify for credit won’t be given credit cards. Is
it possible that we who make our payments on time would be paying lower
interest rates if banks didn’t give out credit cards like they were
Well, I’ve only begun to tell stories about banks
and I’ve already run out of space. I could make this Chapter 1 in a
series but I’m sure you can all write your own Chapter 2.
Banks are a very necessary part of our economic and social system and little would be accomplished if they didn’t exist. We all rely on them, but going back to Christ himself, we’ve not always been satisfied.
|Top of Page|
|"Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire"|
Published September, 2004
There is one absolute truth in life; people lie.
Not only do they lie, many enjoy it and some have even elevated it to an
Both my grandfathers were liars, as was my dad, and
to be truthful, so am I. I’m one of those whose enjoys telling a story
and tossing in a little spice of embellishment wherever needed.
To support my thesis that people enjoy lying, just
take a look around. This world is full of gathering places where groups
of people regularly meet for the main purpose of swapping lies.
In my grandfather Chapman’s adopted hometown,
Joanna, SC, they even formally organized a men’s club for the purpose
of meeting each day to exchange fibs. It was/is called the Joanna
Men’s Club and has been written up in one of that state’s more
prestigious newspapers, The State.
Each member pays $10 a month and that covers the
rent on the old store front they hang around in, keeps the refrigerator
humming, the coffee pot perking and a couple of light fixtures burning.
They’re so organized that they even have rules.
You can’t cuss (don’t think I’d last long there), you can’t
drink alcoholic beverages (experts don’t need booze to loosen them
up), you can’t invite a woman in, and you can’t tell more than 10
lies during a given session (I wonder how often they had to suspend that
Liar’s clubs come in all configurations but they
are usually male dominated. Women, as a rule, don’t lie, they just
gossip. The liars might be a bunch of farmers, a group (like my
grandfather’s) of retired mill workers, veterans, old high school or
college friends, sports enthusiasts, etc. My brother knows of a group in
North Carolina made up of retired Marines. They call themselves The
Semper Lie Corp.
You don’t have to look too deeply around
Greenfield to find places where liars congregate.
Leaverton’s Barber Shop is one such place. Dave
Leaverton, besides being the master of the flat top, is also a master of
creativity. Some years ago a fellow walked into his shop and asked why
the McDonald’s sign was so tall? Instantly, Dave came back with it
being because of the new Interstate that was being built just beyond the
east edge of Greenfield. “McDonald’s wanted it high enough so
travelers on the Interstate could see it soon enough without missing the
Sometime later, one of my students came into class
asking me if I’d heard about the new Interstate? I instantly replied,
“You get your hair cut at Leaverton’s, don’t you?”
Other clutches of liars can be found at the Quik
Stoppe (a.m. or p.m.), Blake’s Coffee Shop (a.m. only) and
McDonald’s (all hours of operation). Walk into any of these
establishments and you’ll find small groups of men, gathered at
tables, hunkered over coffee cups and makin’ up stuff.
There are a number of ways these groups could be
categorized. One major division, however, would be to break them down
into those individuals who readily understand that they, on occasion,
are telling a lie and those who lie constantly but don’t have a clue
that they are. Bobby Everhart told me that one of Greenfield’s worst
liars got arrested once for perjury but lied his way out of it! That
same person is one of the clueless. He’s lied so long he’s come to
believe that everything he says is true!
South Salem and the Buckskin area are not without
their liars. According to Richard Lucas and Al Conaway, the Morton Road
Liars, “a group of 12 Buckskin alumni plus strays,” have for years
been meeting every Tuesday for a lunch of “boloney” sandwiches,
current events, and items of general interest. I recently spent a little
time with them and observed no women, no alcoholic beverages, a bias for
Democratic politics, and just a little cussing. I could find a home with
The community of Rainsboro has a whole herd of
liars. The really good ones hang around the Rocky Fork Truck Stop.
Although lying has no season, the best lies at the truck stop are
usually told on summer evenings by those sitting on the bench outside,
watching the sun go down. They don’t say much during the waning
minutes before sunset. I’m sure they’re using those last few moments
to get their “facts” straight. Come to think on it, though, that’s
kind of cheating, since it’s easier to get away with a lie in the
Years ago I used to hang around Dr. Burris’ home
and several times a week his neighbor, C.A. Kenworthy, would drop in and
strike up a conversation with Doc. I would sit attentively to the side
and absorb the fantastic stories this man would spin. For over a year I
accepted every word he uttered as the truth but began to have a hard
time accepting that one person could have experienced as many things as
Come to find out, C.A. Kenworthy was a member of
some national association of liars and he was testing out lies on Doc
and me. Doc Burris was aware of what was going on but, like I said, it
was over a year before I finally figured it out. This was possibly the
first time I became aware that people told fibs for sport and pleasure.
I now know that my grandfather Chapman was just
such a person. Behind his home in Joanna there was a stand of large
bamboo trees. My granddad would tell me that, as a young man, he earned
his keep as a whale fisherman. He claimed that every autumn he would cut
him an armload of those bamboo trees and use them as fishing poles on
the whaling ships he sailed on. He promised me that one-day he’d cut
some poles and take me whale fishing. I still haven’t got the barb of
that hook out of my lower lip.
Now I don’t claim to be as good a liar as C.A.
Kenworthy or “Papa” Chapman but I can hold my own in most crowds.
I’ll embellish a story to make it a better story or to inject a little
humor into it but I attempt to avoid lying for lesser purposes.
|Top of Page|
|Hey, Greenfield Rocks!|
|Published August, 2004|
There have been a number of things on my mind
lately and any one of them could be the subject of a column.
For example, I’ve wanted to speak out regarding
the teaching of To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t understand
people’s reaction to this book. After all, I didn’t learn the
“N” word from reading it. Instead, it helped me understand that the
word was hurtful and wrong.
I continue to be increasingly upset about our
involvement in Iraq and think it has been a huge mistake.
Locally, I don’t like knowing that Highland
County, Ohio appears to be a place where one can beat an old woman to
death and have it reduced to manslaughter, or rape a 3-year old child
and plea bargain it down to a misdemeanor.
A lot has been written or said already about such
heavy subjects and certainly much more will be. So, I think I’ll
concentrate on something a little more positive and cheerful for this
month’s column. Like, in the words of Cindi Pearce, “Greenfield (and
Highland County) rocks!”
Early in July my wife and I took a look at our
dance card and found it full. Full of community activities we wanted to
be a part of.
It actually began in June with the opening event of
the town’s Midsummer’s Night on Midway entertainment series. Local
garage band, Dumbfounded, opened the season with some great 70s
sounds and I found the fun they were having on stage to be infectious.
They were followed that evening by Cleveland band, Hudson Chase,
for which local pharmacist Eric Zint plays keyboard. The following
Saturday was movie night and the featured film was John Steinbeck’s
classic, Grapes of Wrath.
Then along came July 4th weekend and the
McClain Alumni Association’s All-Class Reunion. The reunion began on
Friday with registration and various individual class reunions. The
Thursday before we drove to Hillsboro and took in the Van Dell’s
concert. If you had the time, Hillsboro was alive that weekend with
great entertainment including Nashville’s Trick Pony.
The Alumni Association treated the Greenfield
community to a fireworks celebration of the 4th on Friday
evening at Mitchell Park and the following day was filled with typical
reunion activities such as visiting, eating bbq pork, visiting, eating
homemade ice cream, visiting, eating more homemade ice cream, etc. That
evening a pair of dances took place in the McClain gymnasiums with a DJ
at one and a live swing band at the other. Something for everyone!
The next day, Sunday, witnessed the annual Old
Timer’s Softball game at Mitchell Park and it is always a hoot. It’s
amazing that these old coots can keep up the level of play that always
Well, we got a little rest between all the reunion
activities and the Wheels of Progress Festival, but that was only
because heavy rains forced the cancellation of the of the Fayette
County Community Orchestra and the Bill Folley Band on
Saturday, July 10th.
The middle of July was given over to the annual
Wheels of Progress Festival and it was bigger than ever this year. We
were involved in helping to man the Historical Society’s booth and
peddling a few All-Class Reunion T-shirts.
Dumbfounded made an appearance on Saturday
afternoon along with Athens, Ohio blues band Chump Change. That
evening Brad Martin showed up on stage with his father, Richard Martin.
They performed to a remarkably large crowd.
With only a day’s break following the festival, the Ohio Chautauqua set up their huge striped tent at Mitchell Park and brought 5 straight evenings of enlightening entertainment to those who ventured out. Such notables as Harry Houdini, H.L. Mencken, Zora Neale Hurston, Zelda Fitzgerald and Henry Ford made appearances. Everyone connected with bringing this event to Greenfield has to be thanked repeatedly. Thank you, thank you, thank you, etc.
Immediately on the heels of Chautauqua’s
departure, The Great Duck Race was held on Paint Creek at Felson Park.
Participants paid $5 for a numbered plastic duck and if their duck was
the first one pushed by the current across the finish line, they won a
piece of the purse.
The final Midsummer’s Night on Midway event was
the DARE dance for teens and it brought an end to both the series’ 2nd
season but also, the month of July.
In addition to all the things we attended we could
have also visited the Banana Split Festival in Wilmington, the Highland
County Antique Machinery Show at Rocky Fork Lake, an antique tractor
show and a motorcycle show in South Salem, a street rod show at the
Eagles, a motorcycle poker run sponsored by the Eagles, Brad Martin’s
appearance at the Fayette County Fair, several dozen yard sales and
taking my wife to dinner in Columbus for our 25th
anniversary. Just kidding about not taking her out, I’m not that
I decided to write this column for 2 reasons.
First, it bothers me that, in a town of 5,000 people, less than 200
citizens turn out for a free community softball game. Are people today
so busy, or have so many choices, that they can’t support those
activities that attempt to inject a little quality of life into their
Secondly, I’m simply fed up with those who are
always saying that, “Greenfield is such a boring place,” or,
“There’s never anything to do in this town.” Well, I think I’ve
shown that, in fact, this area really does, “rock.” And, if you’re
not taking part in it, you only have yourself to blame. Highland County,
Greenfield, Hillsboro, small town America, is not boring. I’ve always
contended that those who are bored with life are, by virtue of their own
decisions, themselves boring.
Do me a favor and run off a few copies of this
column to carry with you as you go about your day. Then, when someone
gripes about never having anything to do, rip out one of those copies
and thumbtack it directly between their eyes with the print turned
|Top of Page|
|Me And Harry S. Truman|
|Published July, 2004|
Maybe it’s all the news about this being a
presidential election year, or all the attention the death of former
president Reagan has received, but whichever, I find myself wondering
which US president I share the most in common.
Now, I know this sounds rather egotistical, but
please hear me out.
I’m sure it’s not Washington; I’ve never
chopped down anyone’s cherry tree and if I had I would have certainly
lied about it.
Lincoln, as I, sported a beard but he spent too
much time in theatres rather than splitting rails. I never cared much
for splitting rails but I will occassionally, split a hair!
Several months ago an acquaintance asked how I was
getting along. A woman with whom I had worked with for many years
interjected that I was, “the same old irascible soul I’d always
been.” That word, irascible, gave me the clue I was looking for. The
most irascible former president I can think of was Harry S. Truman.
So, I spent a little time making up a list of
traits that ole’ Harry and I shared, along with ways in which we
First of all, both HST and I do, in fact, share
irascibility. They didn’t call him “Give Em’ Hell Harry” (notice
that Harry and Larry both have 5 letters and rhyme) for no reason and
from time to time, I’ve dished out a little hell on my own. Harry
Truman was an honest, up front and plainspoken individualist and these
are traits I admire and have tried to emulate.
Both Truman and myself share a love of music and an
appreciation of history. Truman was mostly a self-educated person but I
am always impressed at his knowledge and understanding of the influence
of history on events. He played piano while I gin around on the guitar.
I’m pretty sure, however, that he played better piano than I play
Next, neither Truman nor I were born in states that
only have 4 letters. He was from Missouri and I hail from South
Carolina. Sorry about your luck Iowa and Ohio.
Certainly the greatest similarity between Truman
and me is that there were many Americans who didn’t think Truman
should have been president. Regarding myself, there are even greater
numbers of people who don’t think I’m presidential material.
You’re probably seeing a pattern emerging here.
The list of similarities between Ole’ Harry and me could go on
forever. However, there are a few areas in which we differ.
For example, Truman was short, trim, far more
gentlemanly in appearance, and was noted for his high energy level. I,
on the other hand, am very large, much taller, far more casual in dress,
and don’t have the energy to spit.
The major area where Truman and I depart company
has to do with the love of pets. I am a major dog lover and the Truman
family may have been the only presidential family to occupy the White
House who didn’t have a presidential dog.
In 1945 the Trumans were given an Irish setter
named Mike (Do you too find it eerie that we chose Mike as the name for
our son? Ohoooo, this similarity thing is getting creepy!). The dog
spent the summer at the Truman home in Independence, MO but was quickly
given away. Being pet lovers, we kept our Mike.
A couple years later, in 1947, a crate appeared at
the White House containing an unsolicited Christmas present; a Cocker
Spaniel puppy named Feller. Ownership and care of the puppy was quickly
transferred to the president’s personal physician, Brigadier
General Wallace Graham.
of this got out, the nation’s dog lovers attacked the Trumans as being
anti-canine. General Graham, shying from the criticism and publicity,
had Feller taken to Shangri-La, or what we know today as Camp David.
Care of the
dog was charged to a series of Navy Chief Petty Officers before it
finally fell into the lap of Greenfield native, Chief Boatswain Mate,
Robert W. Lyle.
Chief Lyle was being transferred to Italy. Upon receiving his transfer
orders Lyle asked permission to take Feller with him. Permission was
given under the condition that no mention was made that the dog had once
belonged to the president. Instead of taking Feller to Italy with him,
Lyle brought the dog home to Greenfield to stay with his father, Archie
Otis Lyle, on a farm just outside the town.
It was with
the Lyle family that Feller lived many happy years and eventually died
of old age.
to the story concerns Feller being bathed and groomed anytime word was
received that a member of the Truman family might be visiting the
retreat. Just in case the family asked to see the cocker he would be
spit shined and polished. Sadly, no one ever inquired.
Being a dog lover, this makes me so mad I want to go out and hold up a couple of beagles by their ears. That reminds me, have I ever told you how much LBJ and I share in common?
|Top of Page|
|A Few Thoughts On Heaven and Hell|
|Published June, 2004|
As of this month, I am officially an old person. I
recently turned age 62, filed for Social Security and within days should
receive my first Social Security check. So, now that I’m old I’ve
decided to spend a little time thinking about heaven and hell: since
that’s what old people seem to do a lot.
We all know about the heaven and hell of the Bible
but there are lots of others, especially hells, of a more worldly
nature. For example, General William Tecumseh Sherman once uttered
something about war being hell while General George Patton felt that war
glorified the best in mankind.
Comedian Tim Wilson wrote a song about “Chucky
Cheese Hell” in which he described the torment of taking his child to
Chucky Cheese’s Pizza for a birthday party. My wife and I did this
when our son turned 6. We hauled him and a vanload of his 6-year old
hellion friends to Chucky Cheese’s in Dayton. What in the hell were we
Another form of hell is related to thinking back on
the opportunities you let slip through your fingers when you were
younger. In the mid-1960s I had an opportunity to purchase 100 acres of
wooded land in Ross County for less than $75 an acre. Financing was a
problem but if I’d been a little more aggressive, creative or
energetic, I could have overcome that. Today, I’m told, 5-acre wooded
building lots are easily bringing over $15,000. Yet another great
chance, shot to hell!
A category of hell that I know you’re all
acquainted with is the “how in the hell” hell. It includes such
things as, “How in the hell did cars start costing more than I paid
for my first house?” Or, “How in the hell did gasoline get over $2 a
gallon?” It would be heavenly if only our incomes would keep up with
There is a growing category of experiences that
fall into a type of hell known as “collectible hell.” When most of
us were children the word collectable hadn’t been coined yet. People
talked about antiques but antiques inferred furniture and we kids
didn’t own, or want to own, any furniture. We wanted, and got, toys;
and as you may know, those toys are now collectibles and are bring huge
dollars on eBay.
Several years ago I attended an auction in
Wilmington and watched a Lionel train set sell for well over $1000. It
was identical to the one I had owned as a kid and which my mother had
given to my younger cousin when she was sorting through my things after
I had left home and entered the Navy. The last time I saw that train it
was half buried in the sandbox behind my aunt’s house. We’ll call
this Lionel hell.
Then there’s Roy Rogers Hell. Just give a little
thought to what you once owned that was emblazoned with the names Roy
Rogers, Dale Evans, Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy. Let’s see, I had
RR boots, RR hat, RR gloves (with fringe), RR matching cap pistols with
genuine RR leather holsters, RR lunch box and a wooden RR stick horse
named Trigger. I haven’t a clue to whatever happened to any of this
stuff but if it survived, I bet someone made a hell of a lot of money
from it at an auction.
Another terra firma hell could be titled bicycle
spoke hell. This is where you spend time reflecting on the number of
1947 Jackie Robinson rookie baseball cards you clothes pinned to the
spokes of your balloon tired Roadmaster Luxury Liner and became “too
cool” as you circled the neighborhood. By the way, a 1953 Roadmaster
Luxury Liner in restored condition is worth over $2000. Ain’t that
Now this may not be true for you, but for me it
seems a lot easier coming up with examples of hell than it is for
examples of heaven. That may be due to there being a greater certainty
that a Biblical heaven is not in the baseball cards for me.
One example of earthly heavens for me, however, is
any time spent in search of, and enjoying the fruits of, good barbecue
restaurants. I recently ate pulled pork at a restaurant in Franklin, TN
and a heavenly chorus accompanied every bite. The devil kept interfering
with my pleasure, however, because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the two
women sitting in a booth near me and wondering how they could be
satisfied eating their tossed salads and sipping their artificially
sweetened iced tea. Beats the hell out of me.
While the Biblical heaven and hell may be eternal,
many of the earthly examples aren’t. For a number of years I lived in
a kind of daily hell associated with knowing that my daughter Kris’
bedroom was in a state of mess that would have made the Bible’s hell
look attractive. When Kris graduated from high school and left for
college her mother gave the room a thorough cleaning and we entered into
a state of heavenly bliss. The next summer Kris returned home and all
hell broke out!
It may appear that I’ve not been serious in my
considerations of heaven and hell, but I assure you that I have. Like
every thinking person, I’ve given these subject lots of attention.
However, I remain uncertain about what destiny may have in store for me,
or even if there is such a thing as heaven or hell. Maybe I’m what
George Carlin describes as a Frisbeetarian. That’s someone who
believes that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets
|Top of Page|
|America The Melting Pot|
|Published May, 2004|
Last summer my wife and I took a
little drive out east. Reflecting back on the experience I feel the urge
to say a little about, “we the people.”
There is no denying that America
has an unmatched history of cultural and ethnic diversity. For over four
hundred years these shores have witnessed a constant wave of immigration
from every known culture, ethnicity, language group, nationality and
religion known to exist on the orb. What effect this has had on us, as a
nation, however, is up for grabs. Just about every historian,
sociologist, politician or coffee shop redneck has his or her favorite
theory on the matter.
the early twentieth century Americans didn’t give much attention to
immigration. We were a young nation that needed warm bodies to settle
the land and stoke the fires of a growing industrial revolution. As long
as those arriving on our shores looked, smelled, and sounded like the
rest of us who’d already made the trip, the welcome mat, remained out.
the twentieth century advanced, however, things began to change.
Immigrants, in ever-growing numbers, were arriving from Southern and
Eastern Europe and they were not Anglo-Saxon-Protestants. They were
Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox or Jewish and they spoke strange
languages, ate strange foods, reeked of strange odors, favored wine over
beer and worshipped God in unfamiliar ways.
answer to the last question was, no. Laws were passed barring Asians
altogether and severely limiting the permitted number of immigrants from
Southern and Eastern Europe. For those who had already been allowed in,
extreme pressures were placed on them to assimilate into our traditional
Anglo-Saxon life style and to abandon those things that made them
different. In short, they had to, “become Americans.”
popular attitude of the period was that America was a “melting pot”
of cultural assimilation and homogenization. A Vesper Lincoln George
mural, adorning the wall of McClain High School’s library, exactly
portrays this concept. On one side are gathered a diverse group of
ragtag newcomers who are approaching the flames of a burning cauldron.
Symbolically emerging from the cauldron is a very homogenized gathering
of strong, healthy and beautiful people, dressed in white and walking
towards a destiny of growth and prosperity. Simply put, our collective
futures would depend on us remaining mostly what we had always been
rather than being forced to radically change by increased diversity.
for most of the last century, America remained a mostly English
speaking, beer drinking, meat and potatoes eating, go to church on
Sunday, white bread kind of place. Well, along came the Immigration Act
of 1965 and all that began to change.
that day on the door to America would depend, not on nationality, but on
what was politically and economically best for the nation. If you were
fleeing communism or were a political refugee, you were let it. If you
were a doctor and we needed doctors, you were let in.
not difficult to see that the 1965 Immigration Act has fundamentally
changed America. America’s Hispanic population is the fastest growing
segment of our society. Spanish is becoming America’s second language
and you will hear it being spoken throughout the nation, including the
Wal-Mart store in South Podunk, Idaho! Furthermore, Ohio’s immigrant
population has increased 30.7 percent since 1990 and Columbus, Ohio has
the second largest Somali population in the nation.
of where you live in this nation you can’t escape the growing
influence of immigration on America. You can buy a taco in most American
towns and is there such a place that doesn’t have a pizza shop?
Mexican and Chinese restaurants are becoming as common as hamburger
stands and salsa has taken the place of ketchup as America’s favorite
condiment. Hell, you can even buy nachos at a baseball game instead of a
is not the pressure on immigrants to assimilate today like in the past,
and in fact, they may not bend to the will of the majority but instead,
force the majority to change.
I think what’s happening is wonderful. I love the variety that is
being added to American culture. I also believe that those hardy souls
who are willing to risk the hardships and dangers of immigration can
only add to the spirit and gene pool that has made America the success
it has always been. Our future is assured as long as we keep our doors
open to the best the world has to offer.
you agree, or not, those doors are open. As my visit to the greater New
York City area confirmed, America is, in the sense of variety, truly a
melting pot in the sense that it is increasingly diverse. We were in a
grocery store called Corrado’s in Clifton, NJ and witnessed an
incredible potpourri of peoples, speaking all kinds of tongues, dressed
in all kinds of clothing, buying meats and cheeses and produce that
looked, smelled and probably tasted unlike anything you’d find at your
local IGA. To truly meet the needs of every nationality, ethnicity or
religion present in that store a clerk would need to speak a couple
dozen languages and know the particular needs, likes and dislikes of
even more cultures.
in the spirit of “when in Rome” we jumped in and purchased a small
baguette of French bread, a dab of pastrami, some delicate slices of
ham, several slices of a really sharp provolone cheese, a slab of a
strong off-white cheese from Poland, a jar of weird looking mustard and
some fava bean salad. It was wonderful to head up the Interstate
sampling a little of this and a dab of that. I’m gonna’ try talking
Bob and Carl’s into handling fava bean salad in their deli.
I can tell you is that what it means to be an American continues to
evolve, there’s little that can be done to stop it, and that I’m
going to remember that visit to Corrado’s far longer than any trip
I’ll ever make to McDonald’s. I am also confident that as long as we
all share a love of freedom, a belief in democracy and a respect for
those who are different, “we the people” will be okay!
|Top of Page|
|A Cornucopia Of Drinking Laws|
|Published April, 2004|
Several years ago I went to an Italian restaurant in
Greenville, TN. In order to gain entrance I had to purchase a membership
for $1. The cost of the membership was later deducted from the cost of
dinner. According to the law in that county, this was the only way
alcoholic beverages could be sold, that is, in a private club. I
recently experienced the same thing ordering a beer with my pizza in
The waitress asked if I was a member and informed me I needed to be in order to purchase a Lone Star longneck. The cost of membership in the club was free and simply involved scanning my driver’s license. Afterwards, I was issued an official looking membership card and told this would be valid at any establishment in the state. It turned out that the requirement was peculiar to just that Texas county. Elsewhere in the state, the laws regulating the sale of alcohol were much less restricted.
Anyway, this recent experience got me thinking about all the weird or peculiar drinking laws I have heard of or experienced during my time and travels around America. Here are a few that come to mind:
Many, if not all, of these laws are derived from religious sanctions against drink and legislative compromises reached with those desiring an occasional nip.
The repeal of Prohibition further complicated drinking laws in America. Each state and political subdivision was given the right to decide for itself the conditions under which alcohol could be reintroduced. Many decided to continue prohibition and remain “dry.” Most, however, elected for sale but contrived some means to control it. The result is the huge hodge-podge of contradicting and complex laws that attempt to regulate or control how Americans “kick back.” These laws, however, make for some interesting travel experiences!
|Top of Page|
|Exporting Jobs, Don't Get Me Started!|
|Published late February, 2004|
Well, it’s happened. I’ve
finally gotten so peeved that I’ve run out of cuss words to express my
anger. So, as this column progresses, simply insert your own four-letter
words wherever you think they would comfortably fit.
For years now Americans have been
hearing the experts discuss jobs in America and their theories and
prognostications have never been easy to understand, never always
believable, nor always easily implementable.
In fact we have seen the American
economy shift from agricultural to industrially based. None of us can
remember a time when most of us earned our livings from farming. Most of
us, however, can remember when most Americans worked as a blue-collar
worker in one of the nation’s many factories.
In the last quarter century,
however, there as been a gradual shift in where Americans work.
Increasingly we shifted from an industrial to a service economy. The
American worker was told that he/she had to get retrained and develop
“people skills” that would enable them to find employment by
providing all the services that Americans no longer performed for
themselves. We needed to become nail technicians, lawn-care specialist,
automobile mechanics, auto lubrication specialists, real estate agents,
plumbers, electricians, retail clerks, hamburger flippers, etc. I even
saw a truck in Columbus advertising that the driver was in the business
of picking up the doggie doo-doo from customer’s back yards.
Somewhere along the way, we were
also told that we were entering the “Communications Age” and that we
needed to all run out, buy a PC, and develop computer skills. (Since I
was once in the computer business, I thank God for that one.) The
computerization of America has had a profound effect on the economy. It
created a host of new jobs and allowed worker productivity to skyrocket.
There is no denying that America has
experienced an economic revolution in the past quarter century.
And, like always, we have experienced both good times and bad as
a result. Following a recession in the late 80’s we witnessed a period
of unprecedented economic boom in the 90’s.
So, here we sit in early 2004. Our industrial base is rapidly migrating to Asia and Central America.
Service jobs have never paid as well
as industrial jobs and both legal and illegal immigrants are now filling
many of those. And, increasingly, those high paying computer jobs are
being performed by people in India, and elsewhere, who work for a
fraction of what Americans are used to.
For over three years now, the
economy has been in a funk and millions of Americans have found
meaningful employment impossible to find.
Increasingly the things we buy are labeled, “Made In China”
or the person who answers questions about your credit card statement has
an Indian accent.
The political “ins” argue that
the economy is recovering and as evidence they cite the recovering stock
market. The political “outs” retort that, “yes, the market is
better but this is a jobless recovery.”
And, that is what drives me nuts.
There is certainly a relationship between the health of the stock market
and the number of jobs the economy creates. But, if countless jobs
continue to be “out sourced”, who will be left to buy the market’s
Now, I only suffered through
Economics 101 while in college but it was enough to learn that no
economic system can survive in which the masses don’t have some means
of sharing in the wealth.
It seems to me that our rising stock
market is mostly benefiting those who control major chunks of stock in
our corporations. If companies can cut cost by shifting manufacturing
and services to poorer nations, certainly their profits will rise and
subsequently their stock’s value. To me, if a rising stock market
isn’t creating the needed number of domestic jobs, it’s meaningless
to the average American worker.
Now, up to this point, I still had
some swear words in my arsenal. I spent my final cusses, however, when I
learned that the president’s chief financial advisor, with the
president’s approval, issued a report claiming that the exporting of
American jobs was beneficial to the economy!
I suppose I should be happy that
this is the president’s position. If used correctly, the Democrats now
have all the ammunition they need to insure that this Bush only sees one
term in office like his Daddy. However,
I am not happy and it’s simply because this goes beyond party
politics. This cuts to the heart of human suffering. If people can’t
find employment, they are suffering!
To even infer that exporting jobs
will somehow benefit the average American is ludicrous. I was recently
in south Texas and New Mexico. The highway I was on paralleled a major
railroad track and I observed dozens of trains carrying shipping
containers full of manufactured goods out of Mexico and trains carrying
shipping containers full of American jobs back into Mexico. Even more
trains were hauling Mexican manufactured automobiles, bearing American
brand names, into the US. Now, will someone please help me understand
how this can be good for the American worker? Ross Perot tried to warn
us, but I wasn’t listening. Yes Ross, I can now hear that sucking
I regret that I can only see the problem and don’t have an answer. That puts me ahead of the dog-gone president, who neither has a viable answer nor can see the dang-burn problem.
|Top of Page|
We Better Off Today Than 4 Years Ago?
|Published in early February, 2004|
Incase you haven’t noticed, we’re
getting close to the, “Are you better off today than you were four
years ago?” season. As the presidential election grows nearer we
Americans will be asked that question often and it is one we need to
After reflection, for me the answer is mostly, no.
The conditions of my life, my wife’s, those of our children, our
neighbors and the nation have eroded in many ways over the preceding
In the last four years I have seen the security and
value of my retirement diminished in several ways. Four years ago I was
receiving a 13th monthly check because the retirement
system’s investments were producing significant surplus income. Since
then I have witnessed those investments loose hundreds of millions in
value, and long ago, the bonus checks stopped coming.
A couple of new words, “fixed income”, have
entered my vocabulary in the past four years. And worse yet, the amount
of that fixed income has substantially shrunk. Recently the Greenfield
Board of Education forced their staff to begin paying part of their
health insurance premium. That may have been okay if they had agreed to
enough of a raise to offset the expenditure. Instead, even with a
minimal raise, our family income will be several thousand dollars less
this year than last.
Four years ago the Putnam Fund (and other mutual
fund providers) wasn’t under investigation for bilking it’s
investors with excessive fees and illegal trading practices. Today, I
pick up the paper and learn that the value of my investment has been
victimized by yet another group of corporate criminals. I wonder how
many millions/billions my retirement system had invested in Enron,
WorldCom or Tyco?
Regarding our children, is there more economic
security and opportunity today than four years ago? You don’t have to
read many newspapers or watch much TV to know that millions of
manufacturing jobs and hundreds of thousands of technical jobs have been
sent overseas to people willing to work for little or nothing. More than
ever in our history, today’s working families have to live with the
constant fear that the money spent on their dinner table will suddenly
end up on the dinner table of some family in China, India or elsewhere.
Furthermore, the pressure on income is not
currently structured to force it upwards. Just the inverse is true. With
the continued outsourcing of jobs coupled with the ever-rising flood of
cheap illegal migrant labor, the pressure on the value of labor is
downward. Factor in the president’s opposition to increasing the
minimum wage and his proposal to tighten the definition of overtime,
your job, if you still have one, is simply worth less today than four
years ago! And ironically, you are being asked to be more productive for
the same, or less, money.
Four years ago the World Trade Center Towers were
still the reining highlight of the New York skyline and three thousand
Americans, who don’t exist today, were still busy at work. We followed
the attack of 9-11 by declaring war on terrorism, attacking Al Qaeda and promising the people
of Afghanistan we would be there to see their nation restored. In the
years since, those who made those commitments in our name seem to have
Four years ago America was not at war and my
television was not slapping me in the face with each day’s death
count, ala Viet Nam in the 1960’s and 70’s. And, continuing the Viet
Nam deja vu theme, I again have to deal with the possibility that our
reasons for going to war are predicated on mistruths, half-truths and
Four years ago America, the nation, wasn’t, by
its deeds, blatantly telling the world that it had a unilateral right to
preemption or intervention. We were still trying to lead by example and
diplomacy, rather than by unilateral aggressive military force. Four
years ago we had many more friendships that, at best, have been severely
weakened as a result of our behaviors.
Four years ago the nation had the greatest monetary
surplus in its history. Since then we have witnessed that surplus turn
into what will soon be our largest deficit ever. We have again saddled
our children and grandchildren with a monumental debt that may make it
impossible for them to ever achieve what we today think of as the
There are some things that have not changed in the
last four years. The medical system is still out of control. Medical
professionals, insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations
continue to reap huge profits while working Americans watch their health
coverage either disappear all-together or take an ever growing bite out
of their already disappearing paychecks. A former student of mine just
received a $650 ER bill for eight stitches and a tetanus shot, and he
has no insurance. How can a little thread, a needle and a simple
injection cost $650?
The willingness of government to meaningfully deal with the very serious problems of working people continues to go mostly unnoticed. Lip service has been paid with only minimal tax cuts for the middle-class, suggested immigration policies that do nothing to protect a decent working wage, a revised Medicare scheme that does little but open the door for insurance companies to make even more profits.
While jobs and personal earnings spiral downhill
and lifestyles are threatened, our political leadership continues to
ignore finding a way to fairly fund education, provide affordable
medicines for our elderly, make health care affordable for all its
citizens, regulate the greed and social irresponsibility of corporate
America, develop a fair and equitable system of taxation, pass
meaningful campaign finance and election reform, develop new strategies
for peace, and countless other issues that are vital to Americans today
And while all these, and other, very important
issues only worsen, and we know for certain that we will be in Iraq for
years and that $87 billion is but the tip of the iceberg, President Bush
has now told us that our new national goal is to return to the moon and
to put an American on mars.
I have to admit, I’ve been wrong. All this time I thought our politicians had their heads up their collective rear ends. Now I know their heads are merely somewhere in outer space.
|Top of Page|
|Fishing, Food, and My Wife!|
Published January, 2004
Mention Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee to any
fisherman and you’ll see a man’s eyes sparkle with excitement, his
mouth form a perfect “O” and he’ll issue a mournful sound, not
unlike that of a fat boy eatin’ free at a dessert buffet. There are
simply certain bodies of water that are renown for their excellent
fishing conditions and it is every serious fisherman’s dream to fish
Since I retired from teaching in 1996, I have had
an opportunity to fish several of these legendary bodies of water.
I’ve fished Watts Bar, the Clinch River, Kentucky
Lake, the Tennessee River, the Santee-Cooper Lakes and the Mississippi
oxbows. In Arkansas I’ve visited Conway, Bull Shoals and North Fork
lakes. In Florida I’ve floated my boat on West Toho, Stick Marsh, Pond
13, Miami Garcia and the big boy, Lake Okeechobee. There have also been
a couple of trips to Lake Erie, several float trips on West Virginia’s
New River and a week on Canada’s Pickerel River.
Now that may sound like a lot of fishing but that
ain’t the half of it. That’s only the fresh water half; I’ve spent
even more time fishing in salt water.
Several times each year I visit my brother in North
Carolina and together we terrorize the native species in and around
Beaufort Inlet. Furthermore, in the colder months I’ve been frequently
visiting the sunshine state’s Keys, Sebastian Inlet, Cedar Key and
Pensacola Bay with an occasional side trip to Venice, La., for red fish
and speckled trout.
For twenty-five years I didn’t even own a fishing
rod. I gave up the sport back in the early 70’s because I simply got
tired of never catching enough fish to justify the effort spent. For
whatever reason, however, the day I retired I stopped on the way home
and purchased a license and a rod and reel combination.
Since then, I’ve spent a small fortune on fishing
tackle including a small bass boat purchased new in 2001. My wife walks
into the garage and shakes her head in disbelief. Like most women, she
has no concept that a man is only as good as his tools allow.
Now, having mentioned my wife, that brings me to
the point of this column. My wife is one of the most loving and caring
people I’ve ever known. We were occasional high school sweethearts who
were separated at graduation but were fortunate enough to meet again,
later in life.
For all the things we share in common, however,
there are a number of things in which a wall, akin to the Great Wall of
China, separates us. Her favorite TV channel is The Game Show Network,
her musical tastes are stuck firmly in the 50’s, she thinks baby back
ribs are a waste of effort and money, she refuses to discard anything,
she voted for Ross Perot (ugh!) and she doesn’t like John Wayne or war
Her love of life extends far beyond human life. She
is probably some sort of Hindu or Buddhist in the way she treats most
living things. For example, she won’t squash or spray a spider.
Instead, she grabs a tissue paper, gently picks up the eight-legged
beast and carries it outside to freedom.
Several years ago we had an infestation of field
mice but she refused to set out poison or traditional spring traps. She
sent off and bought a humane mousetrap that when a mouse entered a hole
to eat the bait, a spring-loaded paddle swept down and tossed the
unsuspecting creature into a small compartment where it remained until
released. Every day she would carry the trap across the road and empty
its contents into a neighbor’s field. She captured so many mice that I
remain convinced they were gleefully following her back down the
driveway hoping for another turn at this new-fangled amusement ride.
Now to me, this is strange behavior. I’m more
inclined to grab the can of bug spray or the box of D-Con.
On the list of things we differ on is how we view
food. To me it is a well-established truth that some animals are
herbivores, some are carnivores and that man is both. It is both normal
and natural for humans to consume other animals and the process of
preparing other creatures for consumption is not always pleasant.
Cows need to be butchered, chickens plucked and fish scaled.
My wife is not a vegetarian; she enjoys a good
steak as much as anyone. She just doesn’t want to be reminded of where
the steak originated. Therefore, one of her rules of life is that food
cannot resemble what it originally looked like. A lobster tail, removed
from its shell, is fine. Cooked, peeled and chilled shrimp hanging over
the side of a bowl of cocktail sauce is great. But, you’ll never see
her cracking open a lobster’s claw, shucking oysters or peeling her
way through a big platter of boiled Cajun crawfish.
Another of her food rules is that she won’t eat
anything that she, or anyone she knows, knew. So, if our neighbor
butchered a steer and offered us a roast, she probably wouldn’t
accept. Even though she didn’t personally know that cow, our neighbor
The same rule applies to fish (remember that this
column began with me talking about fishing). For many years, and in our
early lives, we both thought fish were those rectangular sticks that
came out of the grocer’s freezer. There was just one species of fish,
As we have matured we learned the truth about fish
and we know that fish is good food and that we should eat more of it. I
have suggested on several occasions that I should take some coolers with
me on my fishing trips and we keep our freezer stocked up with fresh
shrimp, tuna, sea bass, red fish, trout and all the other delicacies
that I frequently catch and that Kroger gets $7 a pound and up for.
Her immediate reply is that she’s not eating any
fish that I’ve caught, to which I respond, “Well, you didn’t catch
these fish. You didn’t know these fish. So, it ought a be okay to eat
these fish!” Her comeback is typically, “Well, you knew them, and I
know you, and therefore, I’m not eating them!”
Later, she’d broil up or grill up some farm
raised tilapia that she got from the freezer case at Wal-Mart, and which
cost $6.95 a pound.
There are a couple of reasons that I don’t bother to argue the illogic of her reasoning or discuss how certain species of fish need to be culled to enhance their genetics. I don’t do this because I have known for years that she is smarter than me and because of that, I have never been able to win an argument. More importantly I don’t argue the point because I fear she may temporarily forget her Hindu/Buddha ways and I may end up, “Sleeping with the fishes!”
|Top of Page|
|Published December, 2003|
the name Iron Eyes Cody ring a bell? Well, at about the same time
television’s Laugh-In was inquiring about Ruby Begonia, Iron
Eyes Cody was standing on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles and
shedding a tear over the state of America’s environment in the 1970s.
More specifically, Cody was the central figure in a series of
anti-litter commercials that aired throughout the 1970s and helped make
millions of Americans, myself included, more aware of the environment
and their impact upon it.
what’s happened to litter in America in the thirty years since a
Native American cried for the beauty of his native land? It certainly
hasn’t gotten better. Recently I drove through Tennessee via I-75. For
ten miles, or more, there were huge plastic bags full of litter along
both sides of the Interstate. It was amazing how filthy that one small
piece of just one of America’s highways was. Today I drove to
Hillsboro using Petersburg Pike and the sides of the road were decorated
with bright orange litterbags, placed there by people doing court
ordered community service. There were lots of bags and, unfortunately,
it hasn’t been that long since that road was “picked up.”
Littering is a national pastime and cost the taxpayers $115 million
dollars each year.
23 of this year marked the thirty-third annual Earth Day in America. I
remember the first Earth Day in 1970. I was teaching in California and
every teacher in our large school system had a major project planned for
students to participate in. I wonder how many of today’s area teachers
even mentioned the existence of such a thing as Earth Day? Or, how many
schools today include subjects like personal environmental impact,
alternatives to littering, recycling, etc. in their curriculums? I
suspect the answer is few, if any.
don’t seem to have a national policy regarding anti-littering in
America today. I don’t see many public service ads on TV or in the
print media. It seems like the existing policy is, “toss it out the
window and let the ‘evil doers’ pick it up.”
may be that such public service and educational programs don’t
accomplish much anyway. The “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” and
“Every Litter Bit Hurts” campaigns and other slogans of the past
don’t seem to have been very effective. According to the state of
anti-litter campaigns that appealed to people's sense of citizenship and
environmental stewardship didn't work.” They claim that the kind of
person that litters is not the kind that would respond to such attempts.
what is the answer? Again, according to the state of Washington,
litterbugs respond to punishment that hits them in their pockets. In
2002 Washington passed an anti-litter law that, along with attempting to
increase public awareness about the harm and expense of littering,
imposes stiff penalties. Fines for littering range from $95 for a
fast-food wrapper, to $950 for a lit cigarette, to as much as $5,000
plus jail time for illegal dumping.
approach may be to add a flat tax or percentage to every carry out fast
food item, candy bar, pack of chewing gum, pack of cigarettes, twelve
pack of beer, pop bottle, Styrofoam cup, etc. that is sold or
distributed by every convenience store, carry out or burger joint in the
wife and I tried to instill into our children that littering was wrong.
That it was wrong because it harmed the environment and spoiled the
natural beauty of the land. Our children seem to have adopted that
attitude as their own. If you can’t follow this example then try using
the message that if, “I have to pay a fine for that cheeseburger
wrapper you tossed out, you don’t get a new Play Station!”
we, as individuals or as a nation, decide to do about our lack of good
housekeeping, I hope we don’t allow Iron Eyes Cody to have died in
|Top of Page|
Published November, 2003
they buried Billy Kerr. Bill was not the first of my friends to pass
away. He was, however, one of the first of my earliest childhood
playmates to pass. That somehow makes it different, more meaningful,
more of a loss.
seems like there was no time in my childhood that Bill and his brother
Chuck weren’t around. The neighborhood playground was the side
“lot” of the Kerr home on South Street. We dug up the ground in one
area and used it to play with our toy cars and trucks. We would build
dirt roads using Popsicle sticks as graders and construct bridges out of
scrap lumber they’d give us at Slagle and Mertz’s lumberyards. At
the time there was a trucking company named Riss Trucking. We had been
told that Riss Trucking specialized in hauling dynamite and one of
Bill’s prized possessions was a toy Riss truck. I can close my eyes
and still hear him making guttural noises trying to imitate the sound of
a big semi rig hauling TNT. The rest of us avoided Bill and his dynamite
truck for fear his load would explode and wipe us out, dirt pile and
most summers there was a zoo or menagerie under the mulberry tree in the
side lot. It would include frogs, toads, snakes, turtles and other
creepy-crawly creatures we would drag in from other people’s yards or
the creek. I remember dangling small lumps of hamburger attached to a
string in front of the frogs and watching them flick out their tongues
and grab it. We once toted home a small snake from the creek and played
with it for a number of days before some adult told us it was a baby
rattlesnake. I can still remember the chill running down my spine. Today
I believe we were “had” and that it was only a small harmless rat
all learned how to play baseball and football in the lot. Chuck was
always the quarterback and I, when not playing defensive tackle, was
often called on to be the fullback. That was because I was so much
bigger that most of the other kids and they had a difficult time
tackling me. These were daytime activities but the activity didn’t end
when the sun went down. About any night of the summer you would have
also found us playing seemingly endless games of capture the flag, hide
and seek, tag, etc.
activities weren’t limited to just the side lot. Our playground
included everyone’s back yard in a half block area. And the wonderful
thing, that I realize today, was that nobody ever complained about us.
It seems that adults then expected children’s play to spill over into
their flowerbeds. Of course, the most dangerous thing about running
through someone else’s back yard was the danger of getting “clothes
learned how to fish with the Kerr kids. Their dad was into fishing and
they had learned the basics from him. Decent fishing equipment was too
costly for me but Bob Frizzell sold sporting equipment and always had
some of last year’s models around for us kids to have. Armed with rod,
reel and a can of night crawlers mined from the side lot, we’d head
out for Paint Creek where the blue gill and rock bass feared us!
Creek became another of our playgrounds. We leaned how to swim in Paint
Creek and a favorite hole was Red Bridge where old route 41 crossed the
creek near the disposal plant. You always made sure you swam north of
the “sewey” plant so you didn’t bump into any “brown trout”
that had escaped. Someone had tied a rope onto an overhanging tree and
it was great sport swinging out over the water and diving in. A rite of
passage was mustering up enough nerve to jump off the bridge itself. I
suppose that at least half our summers were spent hanging around the
creek between Red Bridge and the village’s water treatment plant where
you could always get a cold drink of well water straight from the pipe.
also learned to smoke at Paint Creek. We would “borrow” a pack of
Bill’s father’s L&M filters and sit around a campfire learning
how to blow smoke rings and to “French” inhale. Occasionally someone
would show up with an R.G. Dunn or a Swisher Sweet from the pool hall
and we’d pass that around for a while. I remember once getting
horribly sick after inhaling a big drag from a Marsh Wheeling Stoggie.
and Bill received a Lionel train set for Christmas one year and their
parents allowed them to set up a piece of plywood in a spare room and
build a “layout.” For several years we all got Lionel train stuff as
gifts and we would take it to the Kerr’s and make it part of their
setup. Later, my mom gave all my Lionel train equipment to my cousin and
the last time I ever saw it, it was lying in a sand box in his back
yard. Why is it that the word “collectable” wasn’t a part of our
vocabularies back then?
were great times and I am thankful that I grew up prior to the advent of
TV, computers, video games, organized youth events, soccer moms and
parents being made to feel guilty if they don’t spend every leisure
moment with their kids. We were all left to our imaginations to keep
ourselves entertained and that has only served us well as we matured.
broke up that “old gang of mine” but it didn’t destroy the
memories. Every time I ran into Bill in a local coffee shop or at
Charlie’s Hardware we’d spend a few minutes reminiscing and a smile
would come onto our lips. Bill seemed to especially enjoy the columns
I’d write for the papers and the reason was simple, he was often one
of the unnamed characters who got told on!
You’ll be missed Bill, but you haven’t been forgotten.
|Top of Page|
Published October 16, 2003
in case you’ve forgotten, we’re supposed to “Remember the Alamo”
when a hoard of Mexicans blew up some Texans, “Remember the Maine”
when a hoard of Spanish supposedly blew up one of our battleships,
“Remember Pearl Harbor” when a hoard of Japanese did blow up lots of
our battleships and “Remember October 16, 1973” when Greenfield’s
finest saved us from invasion by a hoard of alien space dudes.
correct. It was thirty years ago this month when two Greenfield
policemen chased a couple of UFOs all over the county (thus preventing
them from landing and carrying out their planned invasion) and earned
themselves an article in the Cincinnati Post and an interview on a
Columbus television program in which one of them was quoted as saying,
"It was 100 feet in diameter and glowed with a bright white light.
It had a red area on top of it, as if it was overheated, and made a dull
humming sound that increased in frequency as the object increased in
these guys weren’t alone. It seemed like everyone (except me) had a
tale to tell about sighting something unexplainable in the crisp autumn
the tense atmosphere of the time I dared venture out after dark to
attend a meeting at the school. There were some kids on the athletic
field who began shouting that there was a UFO hovering over New
Martinsburg. They had seen it while sitting on the top row of the
football field bleachers.
that seeing a UFO was more important sitting through a boring meeting I
ran down town, filled the car up with friends (“Kirk to Enterprise…
Scottie, prepare to beam up six”), and headed west. Two hours later we
had seen one sheriff’s cruiser, the running lights of two combines
harvesting corn into the night and several satellites pass overhead
while staring into the dark skies over Leesburg Park.
filled with disappointment we decided that if we were ever going to see
a UFO we were going to have to create our own. In a cornfield along US
Route 50, outside Bainbridge, we assembled a farm truck, a large air
blower, a portable generator, large sheets of opaque plastic drop
cloths, every extension cord we could commandeer, a number of flood
lights with colored lenses on them, tent stakes, several industrial size
rolls of duct tape and about a dozen inventive souls.
total darkness, and for about two hours, the sheeting was laid out,
taped together and staked to the ground, the wires were run for the
blower and lights and a set of switches installed so that the various
colored lights could be alternated to create the appearance that the UFO
was undulating or moving.
all was ready we ran a test and with the generator fired up and the
blower turned on, the dome inflated and the colored lights undulating,
"It was 100 feet in diameter and glowed with a bright white light.
It had a red area on top of it, as if it was overheated, and made a dull
humming sound that increased in frequency as the object increased in
run completed we turned off the lights and waited for the first
unsuspecting driver to venture along US 50. To a car speeding along the
highway during this period of UFO hysteria, the effect would be dramatic
at least. Along came a victim, on went the lights, the car slowed down,
stopped for a second, squalled its tires and screamed off into the
night! This continued for a number of additional cars and each time we
were crazy with laughter.
was going great until suddenly, in the distance, from the direction of
Bainbridge, came a number of fast moving flashing red lights headed our
way. Obviously, someone had driven into Bainbridge and told Officer Obie
and half the sheriffs in Ross County about the alien invasion of a
cornfield outside town.
don’t think any of us had foreseen the law entering the picture so
with total abandon and panic we began throwing crap into the truck and
trying to figure out how we were going to either get the hell out of
that field or lie our way out of this mess. Several piled into the truck
with the evidence and frantically headed for the back woods of the farm.
The rest of us simply headed for the fencerows and ditches to hide.
Another guy and I jumped into a ditch along side the farmer’s lane.
Unfortunately it was half full of weeds, mud, yuck and extremely cold
We had just made it into the water and the weeds when a number of patrol cars sped into the lane and screeched to a halt right in front of us. With flashlight beams breaking the dark in every direction we lay there with our breath frozen and trying to keep our chattering teeth clinched.
I don’t know what evidence the police found that night or how many eight-by-ten color glossy photographs (“with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us”) they took. Neither do I know what conclusions they may have reached. I only know that for thirty years this has been a great story to tell. And, every year since, when the autumn air turns crisp and the night skies are crystal clear, I occasionally look up, see a distant plane or a bright star in the night sky, and a big smile comes to my lips.
|Top of Page|
Published September, 2003
It’s been almost two years since I wrote a column
on barbeque. I’ve done enough traveling since then to have a new crop
of pork palaces to report on. There seems to be an unlimited number of
places, all over this nation, that claims to have the perfect piece of
pork and if your quest is the pursuit of perfection, this is good. My
two favorites remain unchanged but here’s my take on the new crop.
Up front, let’s get the wannabes out of the way.
If you’ve ever visited a Sonny’s BBQ along I-75 (or I-anything in
the South) you didn’t get good BBQ. You got food. The same is true of
Smokey’s in Pensacola, FL. It’s a clone of Sonny’s and it’s hard
to tell which came first, the chicken or the egg. Concerning BBQ, they
both are laying eggs. The missing ingredient is flavor. Good chopped
pork BBQ should have some crunchy bits of charred meat in it to remind
you that this stuff was slow smoked, outback, over a hardwood fire and
not in a central commissary’s electric oven someplace on the North
(Yankee) side of town.
The local pretenders that fail this flavor test
include Burbank’s in Cincinnati, City Barbeque in Columbus and
Werner’s BBQ outside Wilmington. Take away Burbank’s name and
there’s not much left. The folks at City Barbeque need to go south and
take another lesson, and Werner’s simply doesn’t have a clue.
I’m undecided about Hoggy’s on Stringtown Road
near Columbus. I tried the ribs and they were swimming in a not so
wonderful tomato based sauce. I asked for a sample of plain pulled pork
and it too came awash in red stuff. So far, I haven’t been able to
taste the meat. Good BBQ should taste wonderful without any sauce and
too many places depend entirely on their sauce for flavor. This is not a
Now, let’s get to the joints that are worth a
frequent return engagement. Locally the two best are Beaugard’s
Southern BBQ in Wilmington and Horney’s Texas BBQ in Washington, CH.
Guys who have spent a lot of time mastering the art of slow smoking
meats run both places.
Troy Beaugard came to Wilmington from Arkansas and
brought forty years of slow smokin’ pork experience with him. Along with his son Marty, he cooks Boston butts and ribs
outback using real hardwood coals, no rubs or spices (not even salt) and
his products meet all the criteria for being the real deal. He also has
a nice tangy sauce that will have you licking your lips a few miles down
the road. Be careful of the hot if your not use to a little heat!
Steve Horney has been wood burning for several
years and hauling his mobile cooker to contest all over the Midwest. He
recently opened a full-time takeout shop on SR-753 at the South edge of
WCH. Everything he serves is as good as it gets without driving 500
miles. The pulled pork and ribs are nice and the beef brisket may be
even better. I don’t like his western sauce but his meats don’t need
any sauce. The weakness here is the side dishes. They are nothing
special except for the homemade chilies. He makes a red Mojo Chili and,
hail to the lowly tomatillo, my favorite, a green Chili Verde.
I recently returned from a fishing trip in the
Florida panhandle. On the way back we visited the drive-thru at the
Original Golden Rule Bar-B-Q in Calera, AL. They claim to have been
smoking meat since 1891. After digging into one of their chopped pork
sandwiches I didn’t have any doubt that they were experienced. An
added touch was the inclusion of a few bread and butter pickles rather
than slaw. Now, that’s good.
A number of years ago my wife and I were visiting
Nashville and near our hotel was a BBQ place called Jack’s. Jack’s
has two locations in Nashville and ours was the one on Trinity Lane at
the North edge of the city. It was such a good experience that I’ve
not driven through Nashville since without stopping. Jack’s claim to
fame is properly prepared pork shoulder with lots of Southern side
dishes to choose from. The last time there I tried the 3-meat platter
with pulled pork shoulder, a small slab of ribs, beef brisket, collard
greens, sweet potatoes, corn bread and sweet tea. Again, Jack’s meets
the basics for good BBQ, a good crunchy flavor that stands on its own
without any sauce. All Jack’s sauces come on the side and their
“spicy Tennessee style” is the best. The ribs are dry rubbed and
increasingly that is my favorite way of cooking ribs. Speaking of sweet
tea. If you’re headed north, this will be the last good sweet tea you
get until you go south again.
My one failure on the recent trip south was not going to Huntsville, TX for a visit to Annie Mae’s Barbeque at the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. I saw a story about the 86-year-old Annie Mae on CBS’s Sunday Morning. She’s been cooking for years and all her profits go to support the church. I did a little Internet research and found many praises for her and the “Church of the Holy Smoke.” I intended to pay her a visit but time got in the way. Next time out, I’m goin’ there first!
Now, which two wood burners remain my favorites? Well, number two remains Sweatman’s Barbeque outside Holly Hill, SC and still the champ is Wilber’s Barbeque in Goldsboro, NC. Both are whole hog emporiums and backed by years of experience and Southern pride. The next time you’re heading out for Myrtle Beach check the map and consider a short detour to either. You’ll love yourself for it!
|Top of Page|
|Today's Kids Are Doing Fine|
|Published July, 2003|
There are lots of things that I, as a sixty-one year old, share in common with others of my age, complaints about aches and pains, not being able to understand where all your time goes, the meaning of life, etc. A possible departure, however, may be how I feel about today’s youth.
About every time someone finds out I used to teach, or that I recently substituted in a classroom, I hear comments about the deplorable state of our children today. “These kids today,” “Kids today are out of control,” or “Kids today get away with murder” are but a few. Frequently following such a statement is, “When I was a kid and messed up in school I got paddled there, and again when I got home. How can teachers discipline kids without the paddle?”
Well, I spent most of my adult life (and all of my teenage life) around teenagers and still get an occasional opportunity to spend the day in a high school classroom. The result is, I have a different view of “today’s kids” than many. I truly don’t see students today being that much different than I was, or than what I have come to know about my parent’s generation.
My music drove my mom crazy. She never understood why I would only wear Levi brand jeans (“Well, what’s wrong with Roebucks?”) or why I insisted on having the legs “pegged.” “Pink with gray?” or “Why are turning up your collar?” rated high on her list of favorite criticisms. I wonder what her mother thought about bobbed hair, painted lips, flapper dresses, the Charleston, Benny Goodman or bathing suits that didn’t conceal her ankles? Both my and my parent’s generations faced tobacco smoke, alcohol, sexual experimentation, foods fried in lard and fast cars squarely in the face and loudly proclaimed, “You can’t hurt us, we’re young, and dumb and bullet proof!”
Just so happens that these are the same things today’s generation are doing and it drives us nuts. Until I stop and think things over, I can be just as unforgiving as others my age. I look at today’s hugely bagging pants, pierced parts, green hair and overly exposed, yet tastefully tattooed, tummies (I just like the flow of those words) and shake my head in disbelief. “These kids are cartoon figures,” I find myself saying, “They’re some kind of hideous alien creatures who are taking over my world.” Then I take a breath, chill a little, and consider that it is just the same old evolutionary process that’s been going on for ages.
What has changed, however, what is different, is the world, not people. Every generation seeks its own truths and to some degree, rebels against the truths of its elders. But, the simplicity of truth in the 1950s is much different than in the chaotic 2000s. The baby boomers grew up in an age where choices were more limited, social limits more defined, institutions more protected and truths more certain. Such was even more so for the generation of the Great Depression.
All that my generation had to do was squeak through high school with a D or better, get a job in a factory, raise a family, learn how to bowl and fight communism. And, speaking of communism, we knew who our enemy was, what weapons they would resort to, what uniforms they wore and where they lived. Life was good!
Kids today don’t have it that easy. They experience educational pressures I would have simply rebelled against. If I had to contend with today’s asinine “proficiency” tests I would have headed for the nearest filling station and learned how to say, “Check that oil for you ma’am?” The latest state mandated educational cure-all, the Ohio Graduation Test, includes passing a test in which you must demonstrate a mastery of algebra, basic geometry and some trigonometry before the tenth grade is half way over. The pressures to succeed now include a college degree and making life-altering decisions before you’re hardly seventeen.
Furthermore, kids are growing up in a social environment that has witnessed the weakening of social mores, long-existing taboos and traditional morality. The media, in all its variety, openly bombards them with information about subject matters that even I don’t want to admit exist. This is not of their making; they are merely reacting to it as any generation of youth would.
Politically, they are much freer than we were. Years ago the courts said that human rights were universal and not the exclusive property of adults. Simply put, kids have rights! Legally, even before they turn eighteen, they can make many of their own decisions, free of parental control. So, if they speak more openly, use words you still don’t know, or challenge your authority, they are simply emulating what adult society says, by its example, is okay and exercising those rights that fundamental freedom affords them. Bet none of my friends would have taken advantage of that!
So, here’s my point. I am writing this a day after having substituted in a high school English class. During the day I rubbed elbows with over a hundred students from freshmen to seniors. Not once did one of those students not smile at me, fail to laugh at one of my stupid jokes, show me any disrespect, refuse me any courtesy, ignore my instructions, or in anyway make me not want to be there. Furthermore, the same has been true in every case in which I have substitute taught. I can only assure you that such would have not been true when I was a high school freshman and a sub’s shadow had darkened our classroom door.
What we old folks need to do is cut most of these kids some slack, give some honest thought to how we really were as kids, and be glad “these kids today” are as they are!
|Top of Page|
Column from Times-Gazette, May 29, 2003
Frank Stanley (not his real name) and I have, for years, engaged in a running battle over who’s the cheapest. Given the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on consumer electronic, useless gadgets, amateur radio equipment, expensive guitars and amplifiers, bass boats and fishing equipment, computers, music CDs and records, woodworking machinery, travel and much more, he has absolutely no basis to charge me with being cheap.
On the other hand, Frank still drives an old Chevy station wagon he purchased used in the 1970s, floats around Rocky Fork Lake in an ancient boat he bought at a yard sale for $100.00 and occasionally still wears a button down dress shirt he purchased in 1964 from the Gaslight Shop in Downey, California. Ten years ago the shirt was so thread bare you could count his chest hairs through the fabric. Still, he had his poor aging mother, with failing eyesight and arthritic fingers, sweat over replacing all the seams with new stitching.
Now it is true that I can’t stand cheap (as in inferior) products and I also don’t relish spending money on something that’s not a bargain. My wife Janet (not her real name) suggested we take a 3-day vacation trip on a riverboat for $3,000. Sounded too expensive to me. However, when she was later interested in a 7-day Caribbean cruise for $1,200, I was all for it. I will hold out for a good product at a better price. Is that being cheap? I think not!
Some time ago Danny Stuckey (not his real name) told me about a couple that commonly enters a restaurant, orders their food, and for beverages she orders iced tea and he iced water. He quickly drinks his water and pours some of her tea over his ice. Then, when the waitress comes around with refills it appears he had been drinking tea so he gets iced tea for free. Now that’s cheap!
The other day Dave Daniels (not his real name) was telling me about an area farmer who was famous for his frugality. I got to thinking that maybe cheapness would be a good subject for a column. So, I began asking friends to share their stories about cheapness and came up with some interesting and creative examples.
My brother (not his real name) told me about some friends of his who inherited a ton of money from both sides of the family. Both the husband and wife are independently multi-millionaires. In spite of the wealth, however, they routinely hang paper towels on a clothesline to dry and reuse.
An older Greenfield couple (not their real name), famous for their thrift, would occasionally dine in a restaurant. The husband, following the meal, would leave a few coins on the table as a tip. After exiting the restaurant, his wife would feign some excuse to go back inside where she would reclaim the coins.
Then there is the lady who routinely separates two-ply toilet tissue in order to get twice the mileage out of a roll. And the infamous restaurant ploys of making free tomato soup out of hot water and catsup or placing a dead fly in the soup bowl just before the last spoonful.
My daughter Kris (not her real name) shared a couple of stories about one of her friends. Seems this guy would frequently mail a letter without using a stamp by placing his name and address in the addressee’s section of the envelope and the real addressee’s address in the return address position. The postal service would then return the letter to the sender marked, “undeliverable, insufficient postage.”
The same fellow occasionally skips out of buying wedding presents by writing, “Hope you enjoy the gift” on a card and signing his name. Placing the card in an envelope he would attach one end of a piece of Scotch tape to the envelope and the other end to a piece of white paper. He would then remove the tape from the paper leaving some paper residue on the tape. It would appear as if the envelope had once been attached to a gift. He would then secretly slip the doctored envelope in amongst the couple’s presents.
I asked Wendy Royse (this is her real name) if she had any examples of cheapness. The thing that immediately came to mind was her husband John’s (she demanded I use his real name because he is proud of his position) refusal to subscribe to cable or satellite TV. “As long as I have an antenna and it’s being transmitted for free, I ain’t paying” is John’s attitude. I suppose everyone can defend his or her spending practices. Some see it as being thrifty while others describe themselves as being frugal. Some, like my wife, hate waste while others strive to maximize an item’s usefulness or longevity. Certainly, however, some of the examples given here go way beyond thrift, frugality or maximum value. At best they are humorous examples of cheapness. At worst they verge on outright dishonesty.
Neither Frank Stanley nor myself are cheap when compared to some of the characters described herein. But, if I was to learn that Frank, in the pocket of that old worn shirt, carried a plastic baggy full of dead flies, I wouldn’t be surprised.
|Top of Page|
|This Ain't Your Granddaddy's School|
|Published April 23, 2003|
I started this column with the idea that I’d survey a cross section of Greenfield area voters regarding their questions about the upcoming Greenfield School Income Tax Levy. Armed with a list of the most common questions I’d find the answers and report back in a column attempting to clear up doubts and misconceptions about the proposed tax levy.
It quickly became apparent that most people who support the levy have children in school and want the best education possible for them. They are aware of the progress that has been made in recent years and fear a backward slide. They are also more aware of what the problems are and how they evolved.
Those who are opposed to the levy all have their reason or reasons for being such. They run the gambut from simply not understanding the school’s problems, to being seriously unable to afford more burdens on their income, to owning large amounts of tax exempted land and not wanting to see the burden shifted to taxable income or to outright tightness and lack of concern for the collective good of the community.
What was most obvious to me in talking to people was a lack of knowledge about what modern education in Ohio is like and what is demanded of it. Too often people want to compare the schools of today with the schools of their youth or that of their parents and grandparents. These are not your granddaddy’s schools!
Ohio schools today have obligations and pressures that never existed before in their histories. Just consider two basic mandates. First, schools are required to provide every child in Ohio an education commensurate with their ability to learn. Whatever their individual needs the schools must meet them. So, if a child has a physical or mental impairment that precipitates a full time individual aide in order for them to attend class, the school must provide such an aide. If a child can only be educated in a special class in Columbus, then a school employee, driving an official school vehicle, must transport that child to Columbus each day. Even children who are mentally handicapped to such a degree that they can’t be “potty trained” must be allowed to attend classes. And yes, we do have a child for whom the classroom teacher must diaper as a matter of routine. Now tell me your granddaddy’s first grade teacher had to do that!
I once substitute taught next to a classroom for behaviorally handicapped elementary students. There were five young children in that room along with a full-time teacher and two full-time adult aides. Twice during the morning the principal had to help the adults physically remove one of those small kids. Schools never had to do things like that when I was a kid, but they sure do now!
The list of services that are required by both law and public expectations is endless. Schools today have to educate way beyond the basic 3-Rs and, be held accountable. They must also teach ethics and morality without offending anyone’s sensitivities, provide basic health care and attend to emotional, psychological and parental needs that were once provided for by non-working moms or grandparents that hadn’t retired to Arizona.
Secondly, Ohio’s compulsory education law demands that every Ohio child remain in school until their eighteenth birthday or until they receive their high school diploma. Several years ago I was looking through some old photos of my elementary school classes. There were faces in those photos that weren’t in my senior class annual twelve years later. What happened to those kids? Well, some of them had moved out of the district. Others simply disappeared around sixth grade into the unskilled work force that existed in 1950s America. Point being, they presented no burden on the schools.
Unlike today, your granddaddy’s school didn’t have to deal with children with special educational, emotional or behavioral needs. Your granddaddy’s school didn’t have to deal with the drug problems of today’s society. Pregnant teenage girls at your granddaddy’s school simply went off to visit their, “Aunt Elizabeth.” Your granddaddy’s school didn’t have to see state funds drained away by voucher payments to private schools or problems associated with home schooling. Your granddaddy’s school didn’t have to watch funding and political power become more concentrated in wealthier urban areas of the state or deal with mandated, yet unfunded, state programs forced upon them by legislators that have, for twelve years, refused to observe a Supreme Court mandate to create an equitable system of school finance. Finally, your granddaddy’s school didn’t have to deal with a “take it or leave it” $30 million state grant to renovate and double the school plant without providing any means to operate it.
Now, there is one thing about your granddaddy’s school that is true of schools today. Greenfield schools then and Greenfield schools now do NOT waste money. In the twenty-six years I taught in the Greenfield system we were never, “flush.” We never had much more than the basic necessities and always had to make supplies and textbooks last well beyond their intended life expectancies. That’s not to claim that our schools are 100 percent efficient. No organization, private or public, can make that claim.
Our schools have always been hampered with a lack of funding and please don’t expect that to end anytime soon. As long as politicians and society continues to place ever-increasing demands on our system of public education and then not reach deeper into their collective pockets, there will be financial crisis in education.
Also, as long as the citizens of this school district remain satisfied with not having passed an operating levy in thirty-six years, our schools will continue to teeter on the brink of disaster.
|Top of Page|
Published Late December, 2002
Everybody else has waded into the Trent Lott mess so I thought I might as well toss my oar into the water and stir a bit. I was born in Charleston, South Carolina into a family whose roots are deeply entrenched in that region of the South. I was witness to the injustices of Jim Crow laws and the racial segregation that resulted from them.
At the time, however, I was like most white Americans, blind to reality and unquestionably accepting of “things as they were.” If this was how life in the South was, then this was how life was supposed to be. If everyone felt African-Americans were inferior to whites and freely threw the “N” word around, then that must be okay.
In high school (I attended the Greenfield Schools from the First Grade on) I was somewhat socially in demand because I knew, and could relate with perfect dialect, every “Rastus and Liza” joke ever told. On my best behavior I referred to African-Americans as being colored or as Negroes. More frequently I resorted to less endearing monikers. This was the way my friends and I were. And, we never gave a thought that we were wrong or that we were being hurtful.
All of this does not describe the way I feel or behave today. The road between the me of then and the me of now has been long and not without it’s bumps. The Civil Rights movement and the folk music craze of the 50s and 60s began to change my attitudes. The black sailors I met and lived with in the Navy also helped. All night watches in the radio shack with Willy Smith and P.J. Arnold talking about religion, philosophy, politics, dreams, etc., took me a long way toward seeing that people are people regardless of differences.
My evolution continued when I moved to California and found myself surrounded by folks of a more liberal mindset. My most influential experience was entering college and majoring in American History. That’s when I really began to see things as they had truly been and acknowledge the wrongs of our past and our present.
More importantly, I came to believe that if change was going to ever take place it had to be on an individual level. Every person must decide that they are going to battle their base instincts and biases and try to make themselves a fairer and more tolerant human being.
That’s what I’ve spent the last forty years trying to do. For the most part, I believe my efforts have paid off. I made certain vows and I’ve, for the most part, kept them. Do I still have biases and prejudices? Yes, but I recognize them as such and try to put them in their proper place. Am I a better person? Yes. Is America a better place? Yes, because I have not been the only one who has fought this internal battle against bigotry.
Now, what about Trent Lott? Remember, this was about Trent Lott.
Well, Trent Lott was born a lot deeper in the South than was I. He spent a much larger portion of his life submersed in the culture and political realities of Mississippi.
He probably didn’t listen to Joan Biaz and Pete Seeger albums when he was a young teen. He probably didn’t sleep a few bunks away from several black kids for three years on a ship. Trent Lott did not spend a number of years in the warm liberal waters of Southern California in the 1960s and he probably wasn’t taught the same brand of American History I was exposed to at Cal-State University.
Trent Lott is, as he acknowledged, a product of his Mississippi past and heritage (don’t forget, heritage isn’t always a good thing). He has Mississippi ideals deeply ingrained in him and he frequently has to meet in back rooms with like-minded constituents to confirm that his values remain their values. There is an outward or public image that can appear to have changed. But, there is also a hidden image that must reassure those who are your power base that you have remained true. And that folks, is the rub. The public Trent Lott, once again and ever so briefly, let the private Trent Lott out of the back room.
So, which is the real Trent Lott? Well, I remain convinced that real change has been much more difficult for Lott than it has been for others. I am also convinced that for most people, the occasional “slip”, doesn’t portray their true self or carry the same importance. It’s a matter of which makes up the bulk of your person. Are you mostly fair and tolerant or are you mostly bigoted and intolerant? I contend that Lott is mostly unchanged from his past and fell victim to one of those “Freudian Slip” psychological things!
Look, it’s as simple as “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” The Strom Thurmans, Jessie Helmses and Trent Lotts of America got to the dance because their racial beliefs and segregationist views bought them a ticket. They can proclaim, “I’ve changed” all they want but the private cost of a ticket in much of the South remains the same and real change is too difficult. Lott’s “occasional slip” simply confirms it.
|Top of Page|
Published December, 2002
When people speak of the “good ole’ days” they’re often thinking of a time when innocence was permitted and ignorance was bliss. Remember when your mother baked with lard, when the skillet was the most oft used appliance in your kitchen, when words like environment and ecology weren’t in the dictionary, or you could take an aspirin during pregnancy without risking the future of the next generation?
Better yet, remember when you could place a regular Camel cigarette between your lips, fire it up with your guaranteed for life, made in Bradford, PA, Zippo lighter, inhale a full billow of blue-white chemically enriched smoke, kick back in your chair with a long-neck locally brewed 14K Hudepohl and watch championship boxing for free on Gillette’s Friday night Cavalcade of Sports. And all this while innocently exhaling perfectly executed smoke rings into the secondary smoke filled lungs of others.
Has it ever been any better than that?
Armed with what we have learned and today know to be true, it’s a wonder we humans haven’t been added to the extinct species list.
The first thing I remember sticking in my mouth and lighting up was the R.G. Dunn cigar we commandeered from a friend’s house and passed around down by the creek. We didn’t inhale (sound familiar?) that time but it wouldn’t be long.
By the time we were ten there were few things we hadn’t tried smoking. Of course, everyone tried grapevine. But we also gave corn silk, tree leaves, dried grass and the seedpods of catalpa trees several tries. Someone told us they were called Indian cigar trees so we assumed the Indians had smoked the pods and we should too.
We soon gave up experimenting and stuck with tobacco in its many forms. By the time I was forty I was lighting up three packs, or more, each day. I may have been the most tobacco dependent person I’ve ever known. In addition to smoking cigarettes, I also chewed on and smoked good cigars as well as collecting and utilizing imported briar pipes and specialty blended tobaccos.
Freud classified people as being either anally or orally fixated. Some psychologists explain cigarette addiction by claiming that habitual smokers are orally fixated. If so, I am obviously orally fixated. If I were anally fixated, however, I would have still become addicted. I would have been running around, though, with a butt hanging out my butt rather than my lips.
It’s amazing how casually we used to light up. Of course, we used to hear rumors about cigarettes causing health problems but any fears were quickly rested by the reassurances gotten from cigarette advertising. Remember any of these; “Try Old Gold, Not a cough in a carload.” Or, “Ask your doctor about Sano cigarettes.” Don’t ever forget that, “Viceroy’s check smoker’s throat” or that, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” It may have been Sano that claimed to be the cigarette specifically created to ease people’s respiratory problems.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Surgeon General ordered tobacco companies to print health warnings on the side of cigarette packs. The only warning I ever heard as a kid was that smoking, “stunted your growth.” When you were already the biggest kid on the block I considered that a bonus, not a detriment.
I finally broke my addiction in May of 1982. I was helping time a track meet and had trotted about 50 yards to take my position at the start-finish line. Ten minutes later I was still panting and gasping for air. I decided then that if I wanted to see my two-year-old son grow up I had to do something about tobacco. I attended a program offered by the local hospital, followed their advice and recently celebrated my twentieth smoke free year.
Millions of Americans have taken similar steps to break their dependency on nicotine and millions more continue the battle each day.
What I don’t understand, however, is why so many more continue to fly in the face of reality and reach into their pockets and pocketbooks several times each day for the $4.00 necessary to buy a pack of smokes.
What I especially don’t understand is why so many American teenagers begin smoking. Everyday, three thousand American teens join the ranks of the hooked in spite of all the proven health and economic issues associated with smoking.
Hey, the days of blissfully believing that smoking tobacco only gives you bad breath are over. Ignorance is not bliss and people can no longer innocently claim that in flicking their Bics they are not setting a flame to their very futures.
|Top of Page|
Published November, 2002
Do kids play marbles anymore? When was the last time you saw half a dozen kids on their knees with their knuckles “screwed” into the cold muddy ground? These questions struck me awhile back when I learned that a friend of my son-in-law’s collected marbles and regularly searched eBay looking for old ones.
When I was in grade school, tag was the requisite playground activity during the depth of winter. You needed the increased activity to ward off the cold. Come the spring thaw, however, a normal male type kid didn’t leave home without his drawstring cloth sack filled with the finest shooters, bowlers, taws, agates, bloods, crystals, swirls, commies and cat’s eyes that pennies could buy at the five and dime store.
If you were good at the game you never had to buy your marbles. You won enough playing “keepsies” that you could earn a few pennies selling your surplus to the other kids on the playground. Of course, you’d eventually win back all you sold and sell them again. It generated enough income to keep your jaw consistently stuffed with Bazooka (did you ever find Bazooka Joe funny?).
The kids who were too cheap or timid to play keepsies played a version of the game called “friendlies.” It was the same game but the shooter didn’t get to keep any of the other kid’s marbles that he knocked out of the ring.
Another source of marbles, for the more observant and daring, were highway traffic signs and chrome plated headlight hoods and other automotive ornaments sold by Western Auto or Cussin and Fern. Many of these had glass marbles crimped into them to act as reflectors when light struck them. A gentle application of thumb pressure would usually free these gems of glass when no one was looking.
A game began when someone took a stick and drew a large circle in the dirt. Another line was drawn several feet away from the circle and each player “lagged” a marble from behind this line towards the far side of the circle. The shooting order was determined by how close each player came to the circle line without going over. The closest went first, etc.
The next step was for each player to “ante up” an agreed number of marbles into the center of the ring. Usually the ante was configured in the rough shape of an “X”. Everybody would lag again and where their shooter landed inside the ring is from where they would make their first shot.
I don’t remember all the rules but I know that the knuckle of the first finger on your shooting hand had to be touching the ground when you released the shooter. To ensure that this was happening the game required the shooter to, “knuckle down and screw the bone.” This meant he had to press his knuckle firmly into the dirt and then twist it back and forth to dig it in further. For regular players this meant living with knuckles that wouldn’t come completely clean until mid-August.
Another rule forbid the use of “steelies.” Steelies were simply heavy steel ball bearings. These were outlawed because they struck with so much power that the target marble, if struck, would most certainly be knocked out of the ring and lost to its owner, or it would burst into a worthless cloud of silicone.
One rule that generated constant disagreement was whether to play “slips” or “no slips.” In slips, you were allowed to shoot again if your shooter slipped out of your fingers, didn’t strike another marble, and didn’t travel more than three inches. If playing slips arguments frequently arose over how far someone’s shooter traveled when it “slipped.” It increased the opportunities to cheat and without a referee, the stronger and nastier players called the rulings that everybody had to live with. No slips simply meant that when the shooter left your fingers your turn was over unless you knocked someone’s marble out of the circle. If it did, you got a second turn.
I suppose kids today don’t play marbles because they don’t go outdoors anymore. Too many of today’s children have become pale skinned, X-Box, Game Boy, Play Station, computerized shut-ins. A little research did reveal, though, that organized leagues or tournament marbles is still played today in some areas. These matches are commonly played under large tents, on artificial grass, have strict rules and official referees. To me, they sound too sterile, too authorized and too parentally involved. Not to mention that if you knuckle down and screw the bone you might end up with a rug burn!
Old men don’t play marbles anymore because they can no longer “knuckle down and screw” anything, let alone get on their knees in the dirt and get up again.
If those cheap kids, who only played friendlies, still have all their marbles, they’ll be pleasantly pleased with what marbles are bringing on eBay today. For those of us who wasted, or lost our marbles playing keepsies, it’s just one more day in “why didn’t I keep my Lionel train” hell.
|Top of Page|
|TROUBLE IN RIVER CITY|
Published October, 2002
There are lots of men my age who have fond memories of the
Daniels Brothers poolroom, which was once an important part of life in
Greenfield. The establishment was owned and operated by Pearl and Ernie
Daniels and was everything great poolrooms used to be.
It was a male bastion where young men learned the ways of
old men. It was truly “men only”, as women were required to stand
outside and ask entering men if their boy friend or husband was in
attendance. Inside, tales were spun, politics discussed, opinions
formed, rumors considered, smoke inhaled, cigars chomped, snuff dipped
and spittoons filled.
There were eleven heavy oak tables with bright green felt,
thick slate tops, genuine leather pockets and decades of cigarette burns
along the edges. These tables were lined up from front to back in a long
narrow room. Over each table hung an elongated Tiffany style lamp, long
turned yellow by layers of deposited smoke tars, casting their soft,
warm glow on the green felt.
The best tables were in the front and were reserved for the
It was a nickel a game with the goal being to get good
enough to play on the front tables as a regular. I started playing pool
on the rear table at an age Professor Harold Hill would have found
“troubling”. By age sixteen I was a regular on the second table and
a sometimes guest on the first.
Lesser players played eight ball and rotation to make their
nickel last longer. The serious gamblers played nine ball on the front
Up front they had a genuine marble soda fountain, which
dispensed the weakest colas and phosphates on this earth.
Across from the fountain was a large display of tobacco products. The wide selection of cigars was shown off inside two Waddell Company deluxe display cases, made in Greenfield earlier in the last century. The poolroom had originally begun life as a cigar store and the brothers manufactured their own brand called The Champion.
If you asked for a pack of matches you were given a pack
that had the WWII “V for Victory” emblem printed on them. Even in
the fifties they were so old that most wouldn’t strike.
It was one of those places that even if you didn’t have a
penny in your pocket you were welcome. Favorite pass times included
wondering if Pearl would ever light the always present cigar tucked into
the corner of his mouth or how long an old man named Shotgun could go
without spitting his tobacco juice into a brass cuspidor.
All along one wall were large oaken high chairs complete
with shiny brass spittoons on the floor nearby. From these you could
smoke and spit for hours while studying the art of applying the proper
“English” to the cue ball and playing “position”.
One of the reigning masters was a tall, thin dude named
Jack, who had fingers longer than most people’s hand. He had an
unmatched style of holding the stick’s grip, oh so delicately, while
creating the perfect bridge with the fingers and palm of his left hand.
His index finger and thumb would gently wrap around the cue’s tip
while the chalk cube was tucked up under his ring finger and constantly
available for touch ups after each shot. The man had that gentle “slow
hand” that the Pointer Sisters are still looking for. Jack was my hero
and even today I judge players by how closely they match Jack’s style
of holding the stick.
A few years ago my son started playing at one of today’s pseudo poolrooms, I think they call them “family billiard parlors,” with his friends. One evening he asked if I’d like to go shoot some pool. I said yes so we drove into Hillsboro for the evening. I guess he thought he was pretty good and certain to embarrass the “old man.” Well, there was no describing the thrashing I laid on him that night. He walked away, and remains to this day, in awe. And my mother said nothing good would ever come of all those hours I, “wasted up at that damn poolroom!”
|If you have similar memories of Daniel's Pool Hall share them with us. Email them to me!|
|Top of Page|
Published September, 2002
would have been difficult growing up in this area and not have heard of
the Carmelite Indians who lived in and around the Highland County
village of Carmel. I had always heard of them but like many others,
never knew much about them.
Recently a friend and I were talking and she mentioned a book she was reading, “North From The Mountains,” about the Melungeon people of Highland County. I had heard that word in college many years ago and vaguely remembered it meaning people of mixed racial ancestry and that is was associated with some historical mystery. Turns out the Carmelites and Melungeons of Carmel are one and the same.
I checked the book out of the county library and gave it a quick read. Though published in 2001 it was frequently a dry (akin to a North African desert) rehash of earlier studies. But, to anyone interested in local history it was, in places, spellbinding. One of the authors, John S. Kessler grew up near Sinking Spring and does an excellent job of recounting what life during the 1930s and 1940s was like for the Carmelites and others living in the southern part of our county.
The Melungeon peoples originated in the mountainous regions of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee and were established in those areas when Irish and Scottish settlers began arriving in the 1700s. The great mystery was, where did these people, who were definitely not Indian, who spoke Elizabethan English, cultivated the soil and lived in log homes come from?
Many theories attempt to answer this question. Suggestions include the lost tribes of Israel, descendents of North Carolina’s lost Roanoke Island Colony, escaped slaves from Spanish settlements and more. Nobody is sure but the Melungeons most likely originated by the blending of Indians with European whites, escaped or freed African slaves, free mulattos, British, French and other raiders and explorers who cruised along the Atlantic coastline during the 1600s. Other possibilities include Portuguese, Moors, Jews and other Eastern Mediterranean sailors who were frequently taken captive by the Spanish and who later escaped or were set free when Spain withdrew from the American Southeast.
The Indian influence is thought to be minimal but since Melungeon skin tones tend to be darker, as is their hair, they were frequently mislabeled as Indian. Such was the case with the Carmel group.
The Melungeon community of Carmel began in the mid-1860s and seems to have its roots in Magoffin County, Kentucky. Kessler says his father told him that the Carmelites were, "brought up here to build the Milt Cartright place." The most common Melungeon surnames in Highland County were Nichols, Perkins, Gibson, Gipson, Wisecup and Lucas. These names were also quite common in other Melungeon communities, especially those in Kentucky.
Kessler and his co-author, Donald B. Ball, conclude that the Carmelites and their culture have long disappeared into the larger cities of Ohio and elsewhere. Studies of area telephone directories indicate that the common surnames still occur in Hillsboro, and to a greater degree in Chillicothe and Waverly.
The old store in Carmel is gone as are the shacks and shanties described by Kessler that once dotted the landscape around Coon’s Crossing just south of town or along the Carmel-Cynthiana Road. In their places are increased numbers of mobile and modular homes and the mailboxes no longer bear names like Gipson and Nichol.
In addition to North From The Mountains, I found a great deal of information about the Melungeon peoples and their history on the Internet. It was all very interesting but none as interesting as Kessler’s account of his young life. Anyone who is a product of this area and a contemporary of Kessler will be taken back to a time and way of living they may have long forgotten.
Finally, I haven’t written a book review since I reviewed “Guadalcanal Diary” in the tenth grade. Hopefully I’ve gotten a little better over the years. Maybe Dorothy, my Sophomore English teacher will grade this for me!
Editor's Note: The following email was received from John Kessler, one of the authors of North From the Mountains.
Hi- I just read your review of our book North From The Mountains and wanted to thank you for your kind words. I do apologize for those parts you referenced as being "Dry as the Sahara" but a significant portion of our intent was to produce a product which would be of interest to the serious scholar as well as (hopefully) a more generalized section of the public. You might be interested to learn than the book actually started out as a paper for presentation at the Kentucky Academy of Science with later publication in an appropriate journal. However, we kept finding things to include and it consequently metastasized into the book you reviewed. Anyway it was a lot of fun recalling my life as a young'un in the Carmel-Sinking Spring area and I sincerely hope that Don Ball and I have helped to document a time and place that today is more hearsay than actual history.
John Kessler, email@example.com 8/24/05
|Top of Page|
|Your comments are welcome. Submit them to our Message Board.|
I found your website by looking for one in Laredo, MO. Your writers brought back the hours I spent in our poolroom and the bad taste of booze, the sound of 41-46 Ford coupes without mufflers, Fox Deluxe Beer (hot of course) and good old friends of the 1950s.
Ralph Livingston, Ottumwa, IA firstname.lastname@example.org 5/16/2007
Larry, thanks for the memories...
was especially sad to read of Billy Kerr's passing. However the
stories about your youth and the Kerr's side yard did bring back some
great thoughts. (I have been reading your columns) While I didn't run
into that gang until the fifth grade and the Boy Scouts I remember your
inventiveness in making the weapons and grenades you wrote about.
very mention of Pete's store, Ed Grate's, Pearl's cigar ( I couldn't place
Jack the pool player) really lit my fire. I haven't spent so much
time on this machine in several years. I can't wait to read the
rest. I didn't know about the UFO though. Picture that.
However I do remember the house on Paint creek, to my never-ending shame.
I still cannot figure put what we thought we were doing.
I said, Thanks for the memories...
also think you are right about cleaning up the town, underneath it is a
very beautiful place.
will see you this summer I hope.
when someone made a good shot at the pool hall and "Shotgun"
would clap and say, "That was a good shot?" His name was William
Southerland, as I recall.
when old man Bush (I think his name was) came in on his noon hour and
played nine ball with the boys? He had the shoe repair shop on the corner
of the alley behind Rexall. He wore coke bottle glasses and I always
wondered how he even seen the balls...but he was good!
Larry's favorite player...(Jack Mills) wearing a bow tie made from
a hundred dollar bill? (Probably the first one I'd seen) Jack was a classy
dude...the way he dressed, the way he acted...even the way he held his
stick when shooting pool. His brother came to town once upon a time and I
was at Penny's Restaurant getting ready to get on the skating bus and
someone informed me that it had already left...and Jack's brother and Jack
said they were going down and I could ride with them. GREAT! They had an
old 50 Ford and they had me begging to slow down going down old 41 to
Bainbridge. I got on the floor board in the back seat. I guess that was
payback for beating Jack at the pool table as my practice was free and I
was getting "pretty good."
George Montgomery (Eddie's grandfather) who was also a regular in one of
the big oak chairs and had the Lucky Strike brown on his index and middle
fingers from smoking so much? Eddie would come in and borrow a quarter
from him now and then.
Saturday night when it was hard to even get a table?...and there was
always a nine ball game on the first table...and they played for sometimes
five or ten dollars a game! And the place was never raided or criticized
for it...maybe that’s how it is when your brother is a senator, huh?
when Ja-Rod Pavey shot the arrow from the front door at the IOOF lettering
atop the building across the street from the pool hall? It stayed there
for years...the painters just painted around it. The fletchings gave way
after a year or so. I haven't looked for years...is it still there? 45
years...I'd think not.
when the coin collecting craze hit us and we would talk about it at the
pool hall and Ernie would get in the safe and get out that string of gold
coins all cellophaned together in a row and go (I can't write how his
laugh sounded)...but you can hear it in your mind can't you?
“Remember when” is over for now...go ahead...it's your shot!
©Copyright Lawrence E. Chapman, all rights reserved, 2002