Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pondering

Our Front Porch with companions
   Hot weather is the time to sit on the porch with a fan in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other to think deep thoughts. It will drive your neighbors to distraction wondering why you have a contented smile on your face.
   We've culled our notes, files, and the Internet to offer a few suggestions that demand excessive hot air for serious consideration.
   Ever wonder if all the world is a stage where is the audience sitting?
  Have you asked yourself why glue doesn't stick to in inside of a bottle before it is opened?
   Why is it the folks on the evening news begin with "Good Evening" then spend fifteen to thirty minutes telling us why it isn't?
   Search the house for a lost item. You find it. Then a smart chimes, "It's always in the last place you look." Why would anyone go on looking after it's found?
   Can you cry underwater?
   Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
   How often have you heard someone say, "It's out-of-whack?" What in the heck is whack?
   Has a scientist ever calculated the speed of dark?
  Why do folks believe you when you point out there are over four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?
   How is it that we were able to put a man on the moon before someone thought to put wheels on luggage?
   Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs.
   Is there a day in the United States when mattresses are not on sale?
  Why do toasters have settings that burn bread beyond recognition?

  What happened when "I have no idea" became a statement of fact?
   Why do we try to keep the house as warm in the winter as it is in the summer when we complain about the heat?
   Why is it when talking you must "put in your two cents" yet you only get "a penny for your thoughts?"
   Our glasses are hitting rock bottom. We've collected a crowd at the bottom of the drive wondering why we're laughing on such a hot afternoon.
   We wave and go inside for a refill to watch the evening news.

Nash Black, author of the forth coming detective novel, Forged Blade.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Old Glory

June 14th is a small and often neglected official observance, Flag Day. This day has been designated as the special day when Americans honor their flag. Beginning in 2016 the entire week in which this date falls has been set aside for waving out flag.
   A proclamation from the President of the United States urges all citizens to fly the flag during this week.
   Flag Day, June 14, 1777 was the day our flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The resolution was actually published on September 2, 1777. Our flag was adopted before the Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and ten years before the ratification of the Constitution, which established us as a nation in 1787.
   It coincides with the adoption of the "American Continental Army" on June 14, 1775. Was the date chosen on purpose or by accident? History doesn't tell us.

   The story of Betsy Ross's work on the flag is familiar to all, but an interesting footnote to the story are the number of points on the stars. George Washington's sketch shows six-pointed stars, which is the British style. Our flag carries five-pointed stars, which is the French fashion. Was the change made to pay tribute to France for their aid during the Revolution.
   This date is also the anniversary of the "Bear Flag Revolt" in 1846, when thirty-three Americans and Mountain Men arrested the Mexician general in Sonoma and declared the Bear Flag Republic. This territory later became the state of California.
   All the stories of our flag's beginnings make interesting reading and there are set formal procedures for flying out flag. They do not include using it as a logo or pattern on lunch boxes, purses, beach towels, jackets, or other items as it has been in recent years.
   The flag flies high, free, and clear of all obstacles. It is never dipped, except as a time honored custom of greeting when ships meet at sea, then it becomes a salute.
   Ole Glory, is our most visible symbol of who we are and what we stand for as Americans. Our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, is a salute to our flag written by Francis Scott Keyes as he stood on the deck of a ship waiting through the night to see if she still flew. The actual flag that Keyes witnessed hangs in the Smithsonian.

                           Long May She Wave.
Nash Black


    

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Garden of Dreams

      
Gardening is one of our favorite outdoor sports. When we were growing up everyone we knew had a garden, large or small for fresh vegetables in the summer. They were called Victory gardens during WWII and their purpose was both to feed the immediate family and to aid the war effort by diverting commercially grown food stuffs to feed our troops overseas.
    Corn, beans, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes were the major family garden crops. Vegetables that could either be canned or stored for winter consumption. Today it's hard to imagine a time when one couldn't go to the supermarket or produce market to purchase selections from countless rows of perishables regardless of the time of year.
   At that time flowers with the exception of marigolds, which deterred bugs were an extravagant personal indulgence except for a few daylilies, peonies, and roses left over from days before the war that became treasured spots of color around the house.
   The photo above is one of those flowers. People have seen the wild orange daylily growing in terrible soil, it is one of our most durable native wild flowers. As their name implies each bloom is only for one day.  My mother grew the one pictured above, which is not a single petal bloom, but a quadruple with four sets of petals in the same bloom. Her start was given to her by a relative when my parents bought their home. It is a 'sport', an accident of nature from the common wild daylily, that reproduces profusely and has traveled many miles among family and friends.
   Now for many, a couple of tomato plants still retain a place in our tiny gardens that are devoted to flowers to have something blooming all summer. The urge to garden is still with us, but space and time are limited so we indulge in beauty. Catalogs tempt us right after the first of year as we dream, turn down pages, and envision all of those marvelous plants blooming in our garden.
   Spring brings hundreds of offerings to the gardening centers and we walk for miles admiring the lovely flowers.  These have been forced and we're careful to purchase only those that have limited bloom because we want the flowering to be in our garden not in the greenhouse. Instant color is soon gone.

   This past winter was unusual, we lost plants we've had for years, but had Dusty Miller, which is an annual survive. Only a few of our azaleas and rhododendrons bloomed, but the bushes have sent out strong spurts of new growth so we can look forward to next year.
   We haven't noticed any change in the weed production. They continue to grow faster than we can remove them so they don't bloom to produce more seed to lie in wait for years to plague the gardener.
   We're two people, our days of cooking for a crowd are long gone as is our time of a large truck garden. Old habits die hard, but when we shop the produce stalls we try to be careful to buy small quantities so it can be used before it spoils. Sometimes this is difficult as a package of brussel spouts goes a long way, thank heavens they keep better than most fresh vegetables.
   I've often wondered what happens to all the left over truck that isn't sold when it passes the 'to be sold by date.' It's no secret that everyday enough food to feed a small size city is thrown away in the United States. It isn't even ground up to make compost to replenish the soil of organic farms or used to feed the chickens or slop the hogs as was the practice of our parents and thrifty farmers who collect town over production.
Nash Black, author of Forged Blade. Coming soon.

    



Thursday, May 4, 2017

No Circus to Join

"I'm off the join the circus" was a favorite saying when someone wanted to run to get away from it all.
   P.T. Barnum created the beginnings of Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus in 1821. After 146 years of bringing joy, astonishment, thrills, and laughter to audiences all over the world the merry month of May 2017 has turned cheerless because the Big Top has folded.
   The huge canvas tent faded into the past many years ago when the circus moved into big arenas. Lot lice, townspeople who hung around in hopes of pulling the ropes for a free ticket to the show disappeared. The manual labor involved in raising the big tent was enormous and a sight in of itself.
   The circus from the moment it rolled into town either by horse drawn caravans or the long train was a prelude to the excitement. I was privileged to see the entire thing when the big show steamed into Frankfort, KY to inaugurate the new downtown hotel-arena complex by the river. 
  The long train reach from the Capitol Avenue Bridge through the station to the river. First the equipment was unloaded onto big trucks and taken to the arena in the early morning hours. You heard the roustabouts yelling 'John Orderly', circus talk for get a move on. Workers were old hands and knew their jobs, which gave the entire procedure the precision of a ballet.
  Then came the colorful wagons of animals, performers, and clowns dressed up in their finery to parade up Ann Street to Main Street, and then down to the arena. When the lions roared we shivered in anticipation of the great show to come.
   The arena in Frankfort is very small, but somehow they managed to cram three rings into the limited space. The lines and trapezes were rigged across the ceiling with engineering precision. The big show played for one performance, if I remember correctly, and the bleachers seats were packed to the rafters. The roasted-in-the-shell peanuts were salty and the cotton candy sticky.
   I've talked with friends who remember the Big Top with it's tarnished glamour before other forms of entertainment pushed it aside. Who cared if it was hot & dusty the sense of wonder was there as they suspended breathing when the aerialists swung high above their heads to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

   There were no bailouts for the circus and many reasons have been given for its demise, but the one that bothers me most of all is the shorter attention spans of today's children.
   What kind of future do they have if they are unable to focus long enough to observe something that is constantly changing in the three rings? Has their sense of awe and amazement been reduce to a two-by-two screen?
   "I'm off the see the elephant" is a famous western saying when someone traveled to see something exotic and wonderful. It appears in many western novels. What pleasures with readers have when the only elephants they've seen are housed in special enclosures. Remember the elephant is a working animal in several cultures like our horse. 
   What are your memories of a real circus, large or small, dusty lots, dancing elephants, elegant ladies on prancing horses, and clowns? Clowns - send in the clowns.
   Barbara Appleby created our clown with its grotesque smile painted around his mouth who can't hide the tear on his face when the Big Top came down for the last time.
   If you can find a copy of the old movie, The Greatest Show on Earth then that is as real as it will get from now on because the show is no more. The end of a venerable and beloved institution.

Nash Black, author of Games of Death.