Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brunch With Mark Twain

Brunch With Mark Twain

Come on over to Marietta, Ohio on September 17, 2016 for a Riverboat Ride and Brunch with Mark Twain!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rare Jackalope

I didn't want to brag, but here is my 16 pointer. Rare Jackalope actually as it grew a rack where this sub-breed usually grows their wings.

I was a'walkin' a fence row down home in my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky several years back durin' huntin' season, tryin' to flush some grouse out of the fence row when a whole covey of them winged Jackalopes got kicked up an' flew. The noise of a covey of Jackalopes is somethin' that will scare Yankee folks or the unassumin' mountain man.

I however was ready an' waitin'. This one took to the air but wasn't flyin' as good as the rest as it was still in velvet. It was a big ol' bull Jackalope I could tell even though the mist was a'hangin' on the fence row right thick.

Now, to make it fair all I use is an ol' 20 gauge Stevens single shot shotgun Daddy gave me years ago. I load my own shells an' only put one single lead birdshot pellet an' 70 grains of powder in the whole shell. If a feller ain't a good enough shot to hit a critter with one little ol' single bb size birdshot, well he ain't worth his salt an' shouldn't be a huntin' Appalachian Jackalopes.

If they get spooked an' start to stampede... well, I ain't gonna mention the lost town of Ox Hide, Kentucky (just over the hill from Bull Skin. It was settled after Bull Skin an' since the name was taken an' the folks was set on Bull Skin they went with the next best thing, Ox Hide). A youngin' playin' with firecrackers too close to a hillside plumb full of Jackalope holes started a stampede an' them things came out of them holes like hornets. They ran ever'where, knockin' down houses, barns, trees, eatin' crops, crows, buzzards an' then they morphed like grasshoppers morph into locusts.

Before the town of Ox Hide knew it them Jackalopes had done et the whole town, even the town librarian an' all six books! Nothin' was left. They even et the town off ever' map in the state.

Anyways, I threw that ol' Stevens up to my shoulder, took aim an' hit this one right betwixt the eyes. If you look close you can see the pinhole where that single pellet went in.

It weren't till I had it mounted an' the velvet came off what I though was the wings did I realize they weren't wings a'tall. THEY WAS ANOTHER SET OF ANTLERS!

Folks went crazy wantin' to see it. I charged a dime a peek an made might near $137.59 before one of them pepper-rosie fellers snuck in, took a picture an' sold the picture to the National Geogramic Magazine.

So, I lost the chance to be rich or even to be on the Mike Douglas Show back then. But I still have the only 16 point Jackalope in the world.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Company Towels

One of the first things a young boy learns, usually the hard way is 1) "Young man, you are not company! Do NOT wipe your hands on Company Towels!! and 2) Company Towels are NEVER to be used for ANY reason.

In the photos (not ours, from the web) you can see a lovely arrangement of Company Towels. As stated above, these towels are never to be used under any circumstances. When you wash your hands you either look around till you find a regular towel or dry your hands on your pants. (A boy child eventually learns to wipe them down on the cuffs of his pants so as not to experience ridicule about pants wet in the wrong place.) 

One might consider rubbing hands through your hair first so as to have that "wet and wild look" women love. It is not your looks that attracts women but the fact that you DID NOT use the Company Towels and chose to spare the towel by rubbing your wet hands through your hair.

I don't know who invented the rule or first wove Company Towels. I read in National Geographic that they found Company Towels in King Tut's tomb, still unused since 1323 BC.
According to a papyrus found inside King Tut's wrappings, some slave or priest or mummy wrapper said, "We're almost out of wrapping bandages but there are some Company Towels over there." He was then sealed in the inner room where they found him along with millions of scarabs for suggesting using Company Towels. (in Hieroglyphs Company Towels is spelled "basket, noose, owl, steel, vulture, ripple of water, two reeds, loaf, lasso, quail chick, reed, lion, folded cloth") The folded cloth is actually a representation of a Company Towel made of the finest Egyptian Cotton.

When Mama moved from her condo into a nursing home we found not only the Company Towels that hung in her full and half bath, but EVERY Company Towel she had ever proudly displayed in the homes we lived in years before. Each was still carefully folded and wrapped, first in acid free tissue paper and then in fine linen cloth. They were then carefully stacked in a cedar box with an index as to which house and bathroom they went in along with photos of each set as displayed, the original receipts and notes on how each was folded and arranged. However, there was also a warning that they could never be used again and were not part of the estate in the event of her passing.

There were also instructions that they were to be left in the tissue and fine linen cloth in the cedar box
and the box permanently sealed in plastic similar to the plastic slip covers (see photo attached for reference) that protected her living room furniture when Brother Mike and I were children. 

The box and contents were then taken and buried in an undisclosed spot, much like the fabled Elephant Graveyard. Generations of Company Towels from our family (maternal side, of course) are buried there. Each family has a secret Company Towel Graveyard. The location is passed from one woman to another when they get their first Company Towels.

I was not only sworn to secrecy about the location, but was also hypnotized so as not to even remember where the Company Towel Graveyard was. My cell phone was magnetically wiped clean and my GPS destroyed, ground to dust.

The every day towels that we used daily were much like (and I suspect manufactured by) the Scotts single ply toilet paper one finds in public restrooms and cheap motels. (towel photo attached). You will note that strings do hand down, as they should. The appropriate way to display an every day towel is stretched out wide with strings hanging down for all to see as if a badge of honor or like a "yellow ribbon tied 'round an old oak tree". 

Here is a neat fact about that song: Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown wrote the song as they remembered the off white, yellowed, stringy every day towels from their childhood. The song originally suggested one such towel be hung from a branch of the old oak tree. However their respective mothers got wind of the song and insisted it be changed so as not to show disrespect to the Company Towels of their youth. Tony Orlando was pressured by his Dawn singers to not sing the original lyrics.

One of our favorite games as a child was to see how much of a children's book we could read through one of the every day towels. You might try it at home with your kids or grandkids! It is a fun way to pass the time on a rainy day or even one of those cold, snowy stay at home days of winter.
First pick out their favorite book. It can be something like Dr Seuss' "Hop On Pop" or my favorite, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain. Lay an every day towel over the pages of the book, make sure the lights are turned on overhead and there are no wrinkles in the towel (it is still possible to read through the wrinkles, but it can strain a child's eyes a bit.)

As the child reads congratulate them and remind them the game should NEVER be played with Company Towels and that those towels are NEVER to be touched by any hands other than that of the appropriate woman type lady person.

How do you dry yourself with an every day towel you ask? It is not easy as they are produced from petroleum by-products and are made to be non-absorbent. 

When finishing your shower or bath it is advisable to have a window squeegee on hand to squeegee excess water from your body. The reason Daddy always gave us burr haircuts when we were kids was to keep from having to dry our hair. That is also why hand held hair dryers were invented. Better to use electricity and ruin the environment than even consider using Company Towels to dry your locks!
You then attempts to dry off with the every day towel and when that fails it is suggested that if you live in the country and some distance from neighbors you run nekkid along the road, allowing the wind to dry your hair and skin. 

Do note that you may have to wash the dust from your feet with a hose before entering your home. You then lay on the grass with feet and legs in the air to allow the sun to dry the water from them.
If that is not possible and you have wall to wall carpeting, you are in luck! Simply lay on the floor and roll from side to side till the carpet absorbs the excess water.

A final note about Company Towels: A Communist Plot arose years ago suggesting that Company Towels could be transformed, demoted, misused by designating them every day towels when the woman of the house changed decor or bathroom color. This could be no further from the truth and a terrible falsehood perpetrated to speed up the downfall of western civilization!

As noted above, the appropriate method of changing colors, styles or even sizes of Company Towels is to carefully fold them, wrap them first in acid free tissue paper and then fine linen cloth. They are then placed in a cedar box (hand crafted in the hills of deepest Appalachia by one family who was given the task and secret of the building such boxes 42 generations ago.) and never to be used again.
Even if the woman of the house goes back to the previous color or decor these retired Company Towels are not to be unwrapped in disgrace. A whole new set of Company Towels would be purchased, hopefully at great cost and with no regard to budget or future retirement plans of her spouse.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Studyin' on Things

I love the quiet times on a gloomy ol' rainy day
Time to sit a while in my favorite thinkin' chair
Little dogs asleep and snorin' comfortable
Pushin' my feet to the edge of my ottoman
Takin' advantage of my better nature.

No one home but me just now, for a while
The sound of the fireplace is just behind me
Whisperin' comfortin' sounds as it burns bright
Now an' again a little dog snores an' snorts
I smile when they wake themselves, look round
Then lay their heads back down, assured all is well.

Just yonder out the window the clouds rush
Pushed an' bullied by the Spring wind
Sometimes I just sit an' watch as they race
Movin' just now from right to left across
Like they were some type of Hebrew
Or other ancient language seen but not understood.

Yet sometimes I just sit, listenin' to the sound
Of 'all is well" in this little piece of the world just now.
Just now I'll just sit, close my eyes now an' again
An' just listen, thinkin' an' studyin' on how things was
How things are an' maybe study for a piece on how they should be.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Lost Spring

Spring has lost her way
Somewhere she wanders
Coming here and back again 
Making promises unkept
Warm days and balmy nights
Trees budding and blooming
Daffodils pushing through
Dandelions springing up
Almost overnight they bloom
Only to be bitten and twisted
As spring hides, turns her back
And Winter romps over the scene.

First poem for National Poetry Writing Month

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Santa's Cookies and Milk

When I was a little boy I could not wait for Christmas mornin' to arrive. Christmas Eve was always set aside to spend with Mama's family. Grandma always had the house decorated from floor to ceiling. Mama, Grandma and the rest of the women would cook and prepare the best dishes for Christmas Eve. Oh my, I can still taste my Aunt Geneva's Sloppy Joe's, her home made deer salami (I have the recipe, takes days to make), Someone would bring a big ol' ham, green beans, sweet tater casserole an' desserts, me oh my.
Grandma started shoppin' for Christmas right after the holidays. She planned for Christmas all year. She would buy wrappin' paper, bows an' Scotch tape right after Christmas when it was marked down 50% 'cause she had a lot of presents to wrap each year.
Christmas Eve was wonderful, full of family, good food and presents for everyone. Nothin' fancy, mind you, simple things, good things for all.
When we finally was back home it was quick to bed for it was always late an' Santa didn't want to wait on the roof for two little ol' boys who had the big eye an' couldn't go to sleep. Sleep always came an' so did early mornin'. Too early for a Daddy who was up at 4:00 a.m. an' off to work the mornin' before.
I don't remember who was awake first most of those early Christmas mornin's, Maybe me or maybe Brother Mike. The Hollen boys were early risers on Christmas mornin' EVERY year. We tried our best to be quiet, but we almost always woke Mama up. She would come into the livin' room with camera in hand. Back then it was one of them little ol' cameras with a square flash cube.
Me an' Brother Mike was like Christmas mornin' buzz saws. We could tear through tape an' wrappin' paper to get to the prize. What fun it was, how wonderful them Christmas mornin's were. Daddy was a little slower to get out of bed. We would hear the click of his Zippo lighter as he lit his first Winston of the day. Mama would have coffee on an' he would drag his sleep deprived body out of bed, head for the coffee pot to grab a cup before he sat down.
His two little boys were his world. He never said that. He weren't much of a talker, but everyone knew they was his world. He sat an' smiled, right quiet like as we dragged each an' every present over for him to inspect. Daddy loved toys an' he would look each one over carefully, tryin' out the cap guns, steerin' the remote control cars around the piles of wrappin' paper before he handed the control back.
I can still see him sittin' there. He liked to drink his coffee in a thin china cup WITH a saucer (later in life Mama would go to the thrift stores to find single china cups an saucer sets in case Daddy broke one). He'd have on his work pants, white socks, what folks call a "wife beater" sleeveless tee shirt an' house slippers. Now, many times his present from me an' Brother Mike was a new pair of house slippers, so we would haul the package over an' giggle the whole time he was unwrappin' it. Once open each of us would grab a new slipper an' ram it on his feet.We each would take one of the old slippers to the bedroom in a sort of retirement ceremony.
What I didn't tell no one, what Brother Mike never knew was this; I would always look to see if Santa ate all the cookies an' drank all the milk we left for him. I figure he had lots of cookies an' milk cause he always left part of the milk an' at least one cookie WITH a bite taken out of it!
Cousins, you don't know the joy of seein' Santa's cookie with a bite missin' an' some warm leftover milk. When no one was lookin' I would sneak over an' right quick eat that ol' cookie an' drink that little bit of warm milk. It was Santa's! Me an' him shared the same cookies an' milk. Sure, I ate the leftovers hours later, but we shared a snack together. That was one of the best parts of Christmas. Sort of like grabbin' half a peanut butter an' 'nanner sammich the King, Elvis Presley might leave. I savored ever' morsel, slowly sipped ever' last drop.
Mama an' Daddy didn't miss much. We both got caught at our orneriness an' paid the price too many times to remember. I'll bet Mama an' Daddy knew exactly what I did on Christmas mornin'. I suspect Daddy left a sip or two of milk an' took just a bite out of that last cookie on purpose. I suspect they watched their oldest little boy with smiles an' secret glances at each other as I smiled an' ate my secret prize.
Now that I wear the Red Suit, I always remember with great joy my folks an' family, Christmas Eve, Christmas mornin' an' secret treats. As I listen to boys an' girls share their wishes an' dreams, see their bashful smiles an' lean close to hear their whispers I pause often, thinkin', dreamin' of warm milk an' that cookie Santa left just for me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Front Porch Memories

When I was a boy of maybe 8 or 10 we was visitin' my Grandpa and Grandma Hollen over to Little Creek in Clay County, Kentucky. (Mind you now, this was before Route 66 crossed right through their land within 20 yards of their home.)
I remember it was early summer. My little brother an' I was playin' in the front room - the room that was combination sittin' room an' my grandparent's bedroom. Daddy, Grandpa an' Uncle Bert were out back. Mama an' Grandma was cookin' dinner (that's lunch for you city folks. In the mountains we had breakfast, dinner an' supper.)
I heard a "halloo" called up from the front yardt an' went to the screen door. A neighbor couple was standin' there with their 5 year old daughter in her Daddy's arms. Her foot was wrapped in a towel an' blood had stained through the cloth. He asked if Uncle Bert or my Daddy was around and I said "yessir, hold on a minute".
I ran inside an' told Grandma they was out front an' the little gal was bleedin'. I ran out the back door an' called to Uncle Bert an' Daddy to come quick. They came around the house right quick but Grandma had already gone to the porch an' learned the little gal had been tryin' to hoe the garden an' had cut her foot somethin' terrible.
They wrapped her foot an' walked way over a mile down the creek to ask if Uncle Bert could take them over to Red Bird Mission Hospital. Grandma asked them to come sit for a They wouldn't come up on the porch to sit for a minute. They said no, they didn't want blood to get on the wood boards of the porch.
While Daddy an' Uncle Bert went in to put shirts on, gather up their wallets an' keys, Grandma found some clean cloth an' they rewrapped the little ol' gal's foot. I was right there watchin' an' it was so deep, so bad, still bleedin' hard.
Grandma went in again, washed her hands,got out some leftover biscuits, cut 'em open an' filled each with either sausage or bacon leftover from breakfast. She handed them to me (after she made me wash my hands) an' sent me out to give them to the neighbors. She knew the wait at the hospital would be long.
They were so grateful. Both the Daddy an' Mama thanked Grandma over an' over. The little ol' gal was so bashful she kept her face hidden on her Daddy's chest, but turned toward me to say "thank ye" as I handed her a biscuit.
They went in Daddy's car instead of Uncle Bert's truck since it had more room. I went back to playin' with my little brother. Grandpa went out to sit on the porch, Grandma an' Mama went back to the kitchen to continue to prepare dinner.
It was late in the evenin', long after dark when we saw Daddy's car come up the creek an' continue on past the house takin' the neighbors home. Mama let us stay up till Daddy came home.
We was all sittin' in the dark waitin' for them to return an' to hear news of the little girl. I remember tendrils of smoke from the gnat smoke wanderin' this way an' that as I fanned it. Lightnin' bugs danced in the dark an' tree frogs sang all round us.
Grandma was the first to see the headlights of Daddy's car way down the creek an' ask, "Reckon that is Jim's car?" It was, of course. No one else had much reason to drive up Little Creek through the rough creek bed late in the evenin'.
A few minutes later we all spied the headlights comin' back down the creek an' up the hill to Grandpa's house. When Daddy an' Uncle Bert was a' gettin' out of the car Grandma was already callin', "How is that youngin'?".
They came up, sat down an' both rolled a cigarette as they told the story in tandem. Daddy said she had a bunch of stitches in her foot but she would be fine. Uncle Bert chuckled an' said folks all over the hospital could hear her cryin' an' screamin' as they cleaned up her foot (she had been barefooted) an' then stitched it up. He laughed, "Folks probably thought they was a'sawin' it off instead of stitchin' it up.".
We all laughed an' I sat quiet as the grown folks talked about the family, "good folks", "Now who's her people", "His Daddy still goes to church over the the Hard Shell Baptist Church up on Gilbert's Creek".
Later Mama told me an' my brother it was time for bed. We grumbled, hugged necks, said our "good nights" and wandered off to crawl under the quilts on the ol' iron bed.
The grown folks stayed up for a right smart while longer. I could hear their voices in the dark, could smell the gnat smoke, (a piece of rolled up cotton still smolderin' to keep away the bitin' bugs), mixed with the smoke from hand rolled cigarettes. As I laid there I wished I was grown so I could stay up an' hear the secrets they told when the youngin's was gone to bed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Aunt Bessie's Fudge

One of my favorite memories of my Aunt Bessie (Hollen) Box was her fudge. Sometimes it would be perfect an' wonderful. Sometimes it would be almost right but "soupy" as she'd say. I remember times when she would call, "Steve, I've made fudge and it's soupy. Come on over an' grab a spoon."

Oh my, we would sit with spoons in hand, scoopin' up soupy fudge, talkin' an' laughin' for ever so long. Eventually she would get up an' make us each a glass of Lipton Instant Tea to wash the sweet chocolate down.

Lordy, she could cook. Fried chicken, pork chops, fried taters, green beans cooked low an' slow with a little pig meat. She canned so many things. I remember goin' several times to a local farm and we picked bushels of green beans. We sat outside an' broke beans all day. We'd wash them an' put them in jars. As her pressure cooker would finish one batch a new load would go in, jar after jar all day. 

She didn't use recipes when she canned or cooked. I helped her make kraut an' pickled green tomatoes, tryin' to learn her recipe. The palm of her hand was her measurin' spoon. Her measurements were "a handful", "just a little bit" or "just a pinch or two". 

I never learned to can like her. Oh, I can follow a recipe and do fine, but no one will ever can a jar of green beans like my Aunt Bessie did.