THIS WAS COUNTRY

Mrs. Case’s class got themselves into a bit of hot water that day. It was nap time, a tradition steeped in the rituals of “Kinnygarten”, as my classmate, the late Ed Bush called it. The year? 1958, Alexandria Township School. Each kid had brought his/her own blanket to school, such to repose on the rock-hard floor for 20 minutes in the middle of the day. (Did Mrs. Case really think that any of us would sleep?)

You’ll pardon me please. I know that I’ve written about this incident already in my book, MEMOIRS of a JERSEY FARM BOY, but there’s a new wrinkle now. We’ve started to die! Not to mention, township residents are convulsing over what to do with the old structure. Rent it (who would?) or tear it down. For the love of Ed Bush, is nothing sacred? I want a souvenir brick from it when they do.

Rest assured that nap time had parameters. Silence was the Golden Rule. Mrs. Case would finally get us bedded down, though us five year-olds didn’t speak of the procedure in that term. Then we’d lie there in attempted stone silence. Mrs. Case would leave the room for a few minutes. When she returned, it had REALLY better be quiet.

That one day we commenced our nod when just outside of the classroom window a cock- pheasant began to crow, Very loudly! Well, far be it from us to take this lying down. In fact, when Mrs. Case re-entered the room, there was the entire class, all 14 of us, lined up along the windows. Our faces were glued to the glass, doing our best to catch a glimpse of this glorious bird. Undoubtedly, we were in TROUBLE!

Mrs. Case’s lip quivered with an angry tremor. She was PISSED, though us five-year-olds never would have said so.

As I recollect this episode, I am struck by its innocence. There were plenty of pheasants about the Alexandria countryside in those days. There was nothing terribly malicious in my classmates’ action that day. Mrs. Case eventually got over it. It reminds me of a lyric from an old Barbara Mandrell tune. “I was country before country was cool.”

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HORSE COINCIDENCE

The world is full of coincidence. If you don’t believe that, travel a little. You’ll see how your conversations bear out what I’m saying.

For example, I sit here on a plane this morning in Sarasota, Florida, soon to be bound for Allentown, PA. It always pains me to abandon the Florida sunshine only to re-enter the UGH ZONE. That is Jersey/Pennsylvania snow, freezing rain, sleet and the like, but I drift.

I’m seated next to Linda and Duane. Here the coincidence enters the fray. Linda has a gorgeous horse, a quarter horse that she keeps at her home near Point Pleasant, PA. To boot, she has horse friends that live in Alexandria Township, New Jersey. That township, she informs me, has an indoor arena where she occasionally rides with her Alexandria friends.

I’m sorry all of you lofty scholars that I should invoke the hideous subject of probabilities, but I need ask: what are the chances that I would have this discussion this morning with a perfect stranger in Sarasota, Florida?

You get my drift, don’t you?

What goes around comes around

Conversation this morning with my dear daughter-in-law, Becky, flitted from one subject to another. Yesterday we had touched on the fact that I was DISTANTLY related to Johann Sebastian Bach. To have a little fun with the fact, I tapped the keyboard of my iPad to play his Toccata and Fugue in D -minor. The organ never sounded so good.

This morning Becky evoked the subject of Ray Manzarek, the former keyboardist of rock n roll’s one and only THE DOORS. That, of course, had me lurching for my iPad again. Manzarek’s organ riff in Light My Fire sounded pretty good, too!

While we had the iPad in hand, why not Google a little info on Ray Manzarek? We did. We didn’t have to read much longer to learn who it was in the music world who motivated Manzarek: Johann Sebastian Bach. What goes around comes around!

HILLING POTATOES

I wonder how many folks reading this have ever “hilled” potatoes.

What’s that you say? “Hilled potatoes”?

That’s right. Let’s start with the basics. We’re in the family garden. Mom and Dad never did anything small when it came to the garden, so our potato section could have fed the Irish during their famine!

Potatoes don’t grow on trees. They grow underground. The tiny plant shoots out of the ground and is allowed to grow for a while. While the soil is still loose from tillage, Bro and I, hoes in hand, would heap the soil at the base of each plant, forming a little “hill” around it. This provided the underground condition most conducive for potatoes to grow.

Hilling potatoes was never fun. It was hot, sweaty work. Prior to starting, we’d already done a few hours of hot, sweaty work in the cow barn, so hilling potatoes was just a hot, sweaty variation.

It always amazed me, the number of potatoes grown by a single plant. Scads of them! No wonder hilling potatoes was just nothing but ingratifying work. Nothing was left too show for it.

Digging potatoes at harvest time was, at least, a little gratifying. The Jersey ground grew them like mad, some too big to fit on a dinner plate. When baked, cut one open, throw in a generous hunk of freshly churned butter, salt and voila.

I quote from the cover of MEMOIRS of a JERSEY FARM BOY, “We worked like peasants, we ate like kings.” Funny how, at the time, my juvenile mind didn’t realize how privileged I was.

THE LAST LEAF

And here I thought that it couldn’t get any sweeter. but the Autumn of the year seems to have outdone itself… again. The understated browns, the yellows, the scarlets, the russets, even dare I say, the last of the lavenders are yet to tumble from the trees.

They’ll have to hurry. They do have a deadline, you know. It is commonly called “whenever”, the very last moment of the very last day when that very last leaf could possibly come to rest on the forest floor.

You might attempt to foretell when that moment will occur. I, in the meantime, am content to keep guessing. I live deep in the woods. How well do I know that your guess is as good as mine.

LIVING DELIBERATELY

There is a special privilege about living in the woods. It is defined by the inability to see or hear those things that are commonly identified with human presence. Yes, the occasional airplane is heard. Quite infrequently a car rumbles down the gravel lane, but most commonly one’s attention is compelled by wildlife, if compelled at all.

The sounds of the night are, well, intriguing. Commonly unidentifiable. But, we’ll not worry about that, shall we? Surely the cicada will intone again tomorrow night with its same subtle vigor. The distant coyote will remind us again of its free forest life and the sun will rise in the morning, complete with its array of silent deer and jumping fish.

The most wonderful phenom is that it occurs again on the morrow. A day has thinly veiled itself, but eternity remains. Another day lies in wait and if Divinity will allow, it is ours to embrace.

DIVINE BASEBALL INTERVENTION

If, indeed, there is such a phenom, it was bestowed upon the teams of New York City last night. Shall we call it the Evening of the Long Ball? Or, to evoke a bit of the Babe, Swat Evening.

For those who don’t follow, the Yankees are in 1st place in their division of the American League. The Mets are in 1st place of their division of the National League. In both leagues there is an ever-tightening pennant race. Baseball is nearly convulsing! Ya gotta love it!

Last night’s game wasn’t cooperating with the Mets. A three run Pete Alonso bomb aided the cause. Better yet, in the eighth inning the Mets loaded the bases. Entering the batter’s box is the Mets’ slugging Short Stop, Francisco Lindor.

No, not many Short Stops are power hitters, but Lindor swats a monster Grand -Slam home run, putting the game out of reach to the hosting Milwaukee Brewers and cementing the Mets’ spot in the play-offs.

Not to be out-done, the Yankees have a few power hitters of their own. Aaron Judge had been closing in on Babe Ruth’s home-run record for a year, but last night’s game was getting gloomy. The Yankees trailed by 4 runs. And then, SWAT. Over the wall goes Judge’s #60, tying Ruth’s record.

Still, the Yankees trailed, but later loaded the bases. Enter the slumping Giancarlo Stanton for the Yankees. You guessed it. SWAT, a grand slam. The Yankees win the game and accomplish multiple reasons to celebrate.

What a night for New York baseball!

Talkin’ Baseball

Entertaining? Definitely.

Sobering? Yes, that too.

Old Timer’s Day at Citi Field caught me a little off guard. How so? It was a reminder that time is whizzing by like a Jacob DeGrom fastball.

The Mets trotted out 60 to 65 former players, some that christened Shea Stadium in 1964. They had a little festive game of their own at Citi Field. Among them was Ed Kranepool, whose autograph I collected as a giddy eleven year old at the’64 World’s Fair.

Here it is all these years later. Who says baseball is waning? Just between the two New York teams, a monumental tradition of sport reigns prouder than ever.

BEAR WITH ME

I’m not certain there is a more soothing scene than the one my eyes are locked onto

at the moment. How fortunate I am to see it frequently, but today nature paints it with a notable flair.

The vista is from the accustomed “Writer’s Perch”. Nothing unusual about that. My view is in the more westerly paddock where two horses placidly graze. Best guess? They are 400 feet from my chair. Seemingly their tails swish in unison, suggesting their complaisance with the surrounds. The grass is much too green for them to dislodge their noses from it. They are the picture of contentment.

I suppose I am, as well, but no, I’m not grazing! It’s just the scene that makes me content. I hope those horses are aware of their good fortune that prompts them to swish those tails. It is a scene in the countryside that never fails to disappoint.

It was but a few days ago that through this same line of sight a bear ambled by, probably on its way to a nearby stream. If one commodity is plentiful on the farm it is water. The bear was walking at a deliberate pace. He’d get there when he got there. He wasn’t twenty feet from the perch, so I bade him good morning, but he barely acknowledged my presence. He then continued his stroll toward the spring.

Well, it was just plausible for me to wonder how the horses perceived their circumstances here on the farm. Why not the bear? But, wait a minute. That’s an unfair comparison. Why? Because one is a domesticated animal, the other is wild.

I suppose a story could be hatched: Once upon a day at Tuckaway a bear wandered by the horse paddock fence. He was on his way to get a drink of water and knew that if he crawled under the fence boards and through the paddock, he’d get to the spring faster. The bear had done this before, but today was different. There were three horses peacefully grazing in the middle of the paddock.

There was another complication. The bear’s big body hardly fit under the fence….

Pardon me, dear reader. This is what happens to me when I sit at the writer’s perch. Lord knows what it will lead to ! I didn’t like where this was headed, anyway.

OR WAS IT THE MUDDY YAZOO?

Bobbie Gentry might have called this afternoon “another sleepy, dusty delta day”. But then I wonder how many folks out there still recognize the name Bobbie Gentry. The lyric might be more recognizable.

Around here we walk across the Delaware River, not the Tallahatchie, but the question is still out there. Just what was it that Bobbie and her boyfriend were throwing off that bridge, or will the question forever swirl in the vestiges of mystery?

If you will, pardon my rumination. It’s the heat, you know.