We Didn’t Have the Green Thing

I copied this from a post on SlingShotForum.com.

Checking out at the grocery store recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right about one thing — our generation didn’t have the green thing in “Our” day. So what did we have back then…? After some reflection and soul-searching on “Our” day here’s what I remembered we did have….

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

 

Robert Found Some Money

This is from my Panama Newsletter in 2008.

Robert is a neighborhood character. He makes a living of sorts doing odd jobs. He used to live in the US, but the story is that he killed a man there and fled home to Panama. Everyone in my neighborhood, regardless of economic circumstance, gets treated with respect, but
Robert may command just a bit more than others. Whatever the truth about what happened up North, Robert is a good worker and keeps himself busy doing the hard, dirty jobs that others don’t want to do.

Last week Robert came to my house and wanted to talk about something he had found. There had been a burst water pipe just up the street from our house, and when IDAAN finally (after 6 weeks) got around to fixing it, they dug a very large hole, leaving a big mound of dirt and clay in the street. Each rain since washed away a bit of that dirt, until a plastic bag with some coins and the remains of a chicken were exposed. Robert found the bag and removed the coins, but was afraid to spend them so he had come to me for advice.

It is quite common in Panama to make a sacrifice before moving into a new home or remodeling. The sacrifice usually consists of a chicken and a few coins, and is believed to appease the evil spirits who can cause any number of bad things to come into your life. Such a sacrifice is what Robert had found. I suspect that if one dug up every yard in my neighborhood, a large number of coins and chicken bones would be found. Robert lives a hand-to-mouth existence, and any found money is welcome, so I knew what he wanted to hear, but also knew what he needed to hear, so I advised him to return the money to where he found it. Of course Robert already knew the answer, because while I respect the belief, he believes it. He said “I knew you were going to say that”. Then he went to get a second opinion, and was again told, this time by a Panamanian, the same thing I told him. So Robert very reluctantly compromised by giving the money (74 cents) to a friend who doesn’t believe in evil spirits. 74 cents may not seem like a big deal to you or me, but in Robert’s world it can mean a full meal today instead of not quite enough, or a couple of cold beers at the Chino’s.

Not unexpectedly, Robert dropped by the following day to “borrow” a quarter so he could get a cup of coffee. I told him I was fresh out of quarters and he would have to settle for a dollar, and remarked that God had probably arranged it that way to reward him for doing the right thing with the found money.

The Old Prospector and the Gunslinger

old-timerNote: The author of this story is unknown.

An old prospector shuffled into the town of El Indio, Texas leading a tired old mule. The old man headed straight for the only saloon in town, to clear his parched throat.

He walked up to the saloon and tied his old mule to the hitch rail.

As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, “Hey old man, can you dance?”

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, “No son, I don’t dance… never really wanted to.”

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, “Well, you old fool, you’re gonna dance now!” and started shooting at the old man’s feet.

The old prospector, not wanting to get a toe blown off, started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet.

Everybody standing around was laughing.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun and cocked both hammers.

The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air. The crowd stopped laughing immediately.

The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly.

The silence was deafening. The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin 12 gauge barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man’s hands, as he quietly said;

“Son, have you ever kissed a mule’s ass?”

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, “No sir… but…but I’ve always wanted to.”

There are a few lessons for all of us here:

*Don’t be arrogant.
*Don’t waste ammunition.
*Whiskey makes you think you’re smarter than you are.
*Always make sure you know who is in control.
*And finally, don’t screw around with old folks; they didn’t
get old by being stupid.

I just love a story with a happy ending, don’t you?

Three Boxes

The Founding Fathers gave us three boxes to use to preserve our freedom.

Box number one is called the “Soap Box” and is embodied in the the First Amendment to the Constitution. It prohibits the government from infringing the right to free speech and freedom of the Press. Unfortunately for all of us, Hollywood, the Media, and our schools have been taken over by people who oppose the freedom we have enjoyed for so many years, and now actively deny access to the Soap Box to any who oppose their radical ideas. Hollywood bombards us with messages about homosexuality, political correctness, and violence. They mock traditional values. Universities have become fortresses for the narrow minded, intolerant, non-thinking proponents of socialism, political correctness, and free stuff. The Media seem incapable of reporting the news without filtering it through their intolerant beliefs about conservatism. In short, the Soap Box has been taken from us by people who hate the freedoms we have.

Box number two is the Ballot Box, or our system of electing public servants. We used it to tremendous effect in November 2016, only to have the Insane Left, the Media, and about half the Republican Party immediately begin efforts to overturn our vote. The Ballot Box can only work when elected officials follow the will of the people, and it is obvious that Republicans are following the will of their big money donors. Republicans deliberately sabotaged repeal of the disastrous Affordable Care Act, despite having campaigned and been elected, on the promise of immediate repeal when they had a majority in the House and Senate, and the White House. Many Republicans are working hand in glove with Democrats in efforts to remove President Trump. There is still a remote possibility that the Ballot Box can stop the assault on freedom, if we come together and remove as many Democrats and Republicans traitors from office in 2018, as possible. In particular, Republican “leaders” like McConnell and Paul Ryan need to be removed. All the Democrats need to go.

Box number three has only been successfully used once to my knowledge. It is the Bullet Box, also known as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The Second Amendment prohibits the government from making law that infringes on the right of the People to arm themselves, and bear those arms. We have seen one instance in the 20th Century where people exercised the right to remove a repressive government by force of arms. You can read about the Battle of Athens here. http://www.constitution.org/mil/tn/batathen.htm

I pray that we will never have to open the Bullet Box again, but I am also well aware of the violent assault being waged by Black Lives Matter and AntiFa on our freedom. This assault is being financed by people who wish to replace our system with one where citizens have no voice. It is encouraged and supported by the Democratic Party, the Media, and many socialist college professors. They are largely unopposed by many city police forces which allow them to riot without opposition. They appear to want open warfare.

In my opinion, we have one last chance at the Ballot Box in 2018. Remove every Democrat incumbent. Remove every Republican who has opposed the President’s effort to clean up the Washington political cesspool. Join me in praying that the Bullet Box will not become necessary.

Memorial Day 2017

Today is Memorial Day, 2017. It has been a day of mixed emotions for me. Sadness, at all the lives lost in wars. Anger at a nation complacent enough to allow its government to wage perpetual war. Sadness at a populace with far too many citizens ignorant of the meaning of the day. Disgust at the poorly educated college students and graduates who are far too eager to discard the freedom and safety for which more than 1 million Americans gave their lives in favor of socialism. Contempt for a Congress that ignores the clear wishes of the people. All that combined with the desire to choke the living (expletive deleted) out of the company who sent me “Happy Memorial Day” greetings in a sales flier. With that in mind, please understand if I write about something other than Unicorns and puppies today.

I remember my first cousin, Don Minton, drafted into the Marine Corps, and sent to Vietnam as a rifleman. Despite being forced to serve, like most good old Texas boys of the day, he accepted his lot and served well enough to make Corporal in a highly respected fighting force. He was wounded in a fire fight on a hill top, and killed by a napalm strike which saved most of his buddies. This account differs a bit from the official version, but I heard it before the historians sanitized it. This in no way is meant to diminish Don’s courage and love of country, or his sacrifice. I tell it to foster understanding of how I, with 28 years of military service, have come to detest the so-called leaders of our country who are only too willing to send teenagers, fresh out of high school, to their deaths in foreign lands which pose no threat to the safety and security of the United States. Years later, I learned that Lyndon Johnson was deeply involved with Brown and Root, and Halliburton, and made millions from the war.

My most vivid memory of that time, though, were the heart-broken sobs and wails of anguish of his mother, my Aunt Lessie, at his funeral. Her grief marked a turning point in my life, and I withdrew my application for a second tour in Vietnam shortly after the funeral. I couldn’t bear the though of causing such grief to my mother.

Today, however, was not all doom and gloom. My cousin, Kenneth, posted a picture of his father, Judge Murphy Smith, who island hopped the South Pacific with the Marines in WW2. For some reason that triggered a story of my two grand fathers, Henry “Acie” Smith and Benjamin Bridges, men in their 40s when the war broke out. They spent an enjoyable afternoon in a Beaumont bar, and in a fit of alcohol induced patriotism, went together to the recruiting office and volunteered to join up and go kill the enemy. Fortunately, the recruiters were apparently sober and sent them home. Too young for WW1 and too old for WW2, they missed the chance to go to war

Lastly, I pray that someday, there will be no place on Earth where Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, or Marines are dying to enrich the evil bastards who keep the US in perpetual war.

Sportsman’s Heritage

My Father taught me and my siblings how to hunt and fish at an early age. We knew how to handle a gun by age 10, and I started at 7. Except for maybe one sister, we all learned early on how to put a worm on a hook. We learned to clean fish and skin squirrels. We never wasted our edible kills and catches, and the family diet was often subsidized with fish, squirrels, venison, and waterfowl. After we kids got old enough, my Mother joined in, and earned a formidable reputation as a crack shot. Any legal deer that got within range of her .243 Remington was destined to become table fare. Some years she shot more deer than my Father.

Even today, I would rather have deep fat fried catfish or crappie, caught in Toledo Bend Lake than salmon or trout from the supermarket. I’ll take breaded back strap over a sirloin, and squirrel makes a fine pot of dumplings.

Something happened as I grew older. The kill is no longer a necessary part of hunting, and I can fish happily without catching much. I take great pleasure in walking the woods looking for scrapes. I enjoy filling the feeder and looking at the previous night’s collection of pictures from the game cams. Just sitting in the deer stand watching the world go from gray to color is satisfying, and hearing the forest come to life is fine music. If I get a shot at a legal deer or feral hog, I will take it, but not seeing any game is not a failure. I don’t bother the squirrels which show up from time to time near the trailer.

Last season, my brother in law, James, shot a fine, fat, legal doe which ran a short distance down hill before falling. He walked out to find my brother, Ron, and me to help drag her out of the woods. We dragged her about 30 yards uphill, huffing and puffing all the way, but we made it and got her loaded on the 4-wheeler. That may not seem like much of a big deal, but the youngest member of our crew was 71. I’m thankful that we are still able to do that, and look forward to being able to do so for some time to come. Until I get too old and feeble to do it, look for me in the woods during hunting season.

Perpetual Summer

Having just enjoyed, for the most part, Autumn and Winter in Texas, I am now back in Panama, where Summer never ends. We have two seasons, wet and dry. Dry season is winding down and the rains will soon arrive. Rainy season is not as pleasant as dry season. During the dry, we have breezes most of the time and the temperature rarely rises much above 90F. In fact, the average year round high temp in Panama City is 87F. The highest temp recorded in Panama City for the last 13 years was 102F and the lowest was 68F. The real killer here is humidity. The average humidity in the morning is 91% and 72% in the evening. When July rolls around, we frequently see 90F and 90% humidity and no breeze. Even so, our hottest months can’t hold a candle to July in East Texas. Being close to the equator, our day length is pretty consistent. In December the day is 12 hours long and in July it is 13 hours long, and we don’t mess with it by changing the time twice a year.

There are places to escape the heat, however. Cerro Azul (Blue Mountain) about 20 miles outside of Panama City has lower temperatures, and sometimes drops into the 50s at night. Almost anywhere the altitude is over 500 feet ASL offers a cooler experience, and snow is not unheard of on Volcan Baru above 5,000 feet. I’ve been to the summit, at 11,400 feet and the daytime temp was about 40F. On a clear day you can see both oceans from the top of Baru.

For most of us, though, summer is year round. Thankfully, Autumn is only a 6 month wait and a plane ride away.

The Hookworm Bench

Before political correctness reared its ugly head, there was a hangout on the town square for older men with too much time on their hands. Tall tales were spun, world problems resolved, politicians skewered, and lots of tobacco juice was spat. We called it the Hookworm Bench.

In later years, it became known as the Cedar Tree and lost much of its charm. The domino players, who had previously played near the outside entrance to the rest rooms under the stairs leading to the second floor of the Court House, moved to the Hookworm Bench. The dignity of many of the players, among them more than a few County Office holders, lawyers, and prominent local business men, prompted a name change. Bear in mind, this is speculation on my part, as I was somewhere overseas when the change occurred, but this is my blog and I never promised to tell the truth about everything, or anything, for that matter. The simple fact is that a charming name got replaced by an unimaginative one, and my explanation is as good as any.

Anyway, some of us young boys hung out there occasionally, and were tolerated by the old timers, who probably cranked up their tall tales for our benefit. I don’t recall ever hearing any cussing or profanity from any of the regulars, nor were we youngsters allowed to use bad language. The Hookworm Bench could reasonably be considered a positive community asset.

I’m told that the Domino players still gather, but in my several stays in Sabine County in the last 5 years, I never saw anyone there. I hope it was just coincidence, and would be delighted to see a bunch of players spinning lies, with a crowd of kids listening in, even if we do have to call it the Cedar Tree. To me, it will always be the Hookworm Bench.

Slumgullion

Growing up in Sabine County in the fifties was a wonderful adventure. One of the greatest pleasures was camping out on the banks of the Sabine River, or one of the many creeks which feed it. This was real camping out. No motor homes or travel trailers in those days. Dad’s group had a small Army surplus tent which was sometimes used, but mostly it was an open air bed on an Army surplus cot, if you were lucky. There was a cranky generator which required about a half-dozen 100 watt light bulbs to operate properly. If they used fewer, the bulbs would burn out. At any rate, sleep was secondary. Much of the night was spent “running” the throw lines and bank set hooks. Catfish were the prey, and usually enough were caught to feed the camp and take a bit home. Occasionally, something would destroy one of the sets, and embellish the persistent rumor that giant catfish lived in those waters. More likely, a big Loggerhead Turtle or Gar was the culprit.

One member of the group was a man who had no visible means of support and could usually be found loitering around the Court House. Let’s call him Jethro, mainly because I never knew anyone named Jethro, and I don’t want to embarrass any of his family. Jethro’s contribution to the group was as camp cook, and for the most part, he was competent. On one occasion, the group had been quite successful and decided to have a fish fry at the camp. Jethro prepared a huge mound of cornmeal battered fish and the men gathered round for the feast. My father bit into a piece and was unable to swallow it.

“Jethro”, he exclaimed, “why is this fish so salty? We can’t eat this?” Jethro looked puzzled, picked up the box of salt, and after studying it for a bit, said “Well, Floyd, this ain’t my usual brand of salt.”

A camp culinary mainstay was a dish called Slumgullion. Slumgullion had its origin in the Hobo camps of the thirties, and consisted of whatever the men had, all thrown into a pot and shared. There is no recipe for it, it’s strictly catch as catch can. By the fifties, a basic recipe of sorts had evolved. These men were far more prosperous than the homeless men who rode the rails in the thirties, so a bit of care was taken in selecting ingredients to make the stew. I liked it, not only because it always tasted good, but because it was never the same twice in a row. Today, more that 80 years after its creation in Hobo camps, it survives as Cowboy Soup, and tastes better than ever. In fact, I had a bowl of leftover Slumgullion, with a Latin flavor, for breakfast this morning.

Slumgullion or Cowboy Soup
Basic Recipe

meat (can be ground, or chopped into small pieces)
onion
garlic
salt
pepper
tomatoes (canned or fresh. chopped is best)
4 or more different vegetables, canned or fresh
water

Throw it all in a pot and cook until done.

 

God is not dead.

If you get your news from traditional news sources, you might believe that God is on the run, if not on the ropes. In some places, there might be some truth to it, but in rural America, nothing could be further from reality. This is God’s country, and God’s people. These are the people who made America great, and they will do it again, if government gets out of the way. They give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. They support their local church, and believe the police are on our side. They are the salt of the earth, generous almost to a fault. God and Family are their driving forces. They say Grace at the table, and aren’t reluctant about saying it in public.

In my rebellious youth I thought I would be an atheist, but learned that I didn’t have enough blind, unquestioning faith to be a nonbeliever. I’m not a regular church goer, but when I attend I am made welcome and leave feeling uplifted.

Sabine County, Texas has more than 30 churches, representing 12 major denominations and a few non denominational. That is one church for every 320 residents. This is not an anomaly. Tiny Geneva has an active Baptist church, and the Methodist Church on the opposite side of the road, though without a pastor or congregation, is lovingly maintained.

Though I grew up going to a Baptist church, my mother was Pentecostal, and would sometimes attend a Pentecostal church near Lufkin, Texas. I thoroughly enjoyed those visits. Pentecostals don’t sit quietly in the pews, listening to the preacher, they join in. They take Jesus very seriously and want the world to know it. When they make a joyful noise, it is wonderfully spiritual, emotional, and loud. They don’t just love Jesus, they embrace and become one with the Holy Ghost and their joy bursts out in a torrent of sound, movement, and euphoria. Sitting quietly, struggling to stay awake, is not an option. Even if the congregation could sit quietly, the preacher would ensure no one nodded off.

My oldest son, Karl, is a Pentecostal minister in the small town of Starks, Louisiana. I spent the last weekend plus Monday and Tuesday of my recent trip to Texas with him and his family. I attended church twice on Sunday, something of a record for me, a backslid Baptist. The church hasn’t changed in the last 60 or so years, and my fond memories were reinforced. The music was tremendous, the visiting preacher was fiery, and the congregation enthusiastic. After the service, people sought me out and welcomed me, in part because I’m the Pastor’s father, but more because they are good folks who want to share their love of God.

So, despite the best efforts of misguided people who want to remove all Christianity from public view, out here in small town and rural America, God is very much alive and well.