Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A few poems, or Trees have leaves and roots and branches, not all Texans live on ranches

In my old hometown of Mansfield, Texas, 60 years ago, there was an electrician and repairer of television sets named Beverly Bratton. Let me back up and start over. As far as I know, there were no television sets named Beverly Bratton in my old hometown 60 years ago. What I meant to say was that our local electrician and television repairer was named Beverly Bratton, and the point I'm trying to get to is Beverly was a man.

Not a transgendered man, mind you, but a born-male baby whose parents gave a name that sounded decidedly female.

It has happened before. George Beverly Shea, whom everyone called Bev, sang at just about every Billy Graham crusade. Joyce Kilmer, a man, wrote a poem called "Trees". Johnny Cash famously sang about a boy named Sue (3:46) in his San Quentin Prison concert.

If you know of other examples of boys with girls' names, tell me in the comments.

Here, from 1913, is "Trees":

by Joyce Kilmer (1886 - 1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer looked like this in 1908, when he was attending Columbia University:

Many years later, poet Ogden Nash wrote:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree;
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

Here is Ogden Nash in his youth:

Here he is later in life weariing a spiffy houndstooth jacket, the money for which might have been better spent on dental work:

And many years after that -- today, in fact -- yours truly wrote the following:

Blogposts are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

Here I am at age 37:

I end this post with these trees, whose age I do not know:

Friday, September 14, 2018

More Dad sayings

Yesterday I told you a couple of things my dad used to say, like ‘Pull my finger’ and ‘Listen my children, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice’. No sooner had I pressed PUBLISH when a few other things my dad used to say (he died in 1967) popped up in my mind from the depths of wherever they had been hiding.

I thought I’d share them with you as well:

1. ‘Use your head for something besides keeping your ears apart’.

2. ‘Put your hand on your “huh” and see if your heart’s beating’. (whenever someone* said “Huh?”)

3. ‘ “I see”, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw’.

4. ‘Can’t never did anything’.

5. ‘Cat fur to make kitten britches’. (whenever someone* said “What fer?” instead of “What for?”) (Note. People in Texas say "What fer?" and people in Missouri say "What far?")

6. ‘I should hope to kiss a pig’. (which meant "Definitely!" and not what you might expect, "Never!")

7. 'Rise and shine, it's daylight in the swamps!'

*The someone was usually me.

I miss him and I don't miss him at the same time.

Your assignment: Pick your favorite(s) and give reasons.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dad sayings

Long before Captain Hawkeye Pierce said something similar on M*A*S*H, my dad used to say, 'Listen my children, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice'.

I never did that, but -- ever the daredevil -- I find that I am beginning to favour British spelling and punctuation in my old age (77). You know what they say, there's no fool like an old fool, and I am just trying to keep up my end of the bargain.

I'm feeling silly today. Did you notice?

Laughter is good for the soul.

With a dad like mine, is it any wonder I turned out the way I did?

He also said, 'Pull my finger’, but I won't go in that direction today.

What did your dad used to say?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Since it's 9/11 (British, 11/9)

Ponder this op-ed piece from today's edition of The New York Daily News.


To whom it may concern

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

I'm working on a post. It just takes me a little longer nowadays.

I just realized that the only whom to whom it may be of concern is probably me.

You're not all out there hanging on my every word.

You're not all waiting with 'bated breath, impatiently drumming your fingers for more, more, more.

Message received and understood.

Lesson learned.

"O wad som Pow'r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us."

Robert Burns.

I now return, slightly older and slightly wiser, to the proverbial drawing board.

See you later.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Odds and ends and reminiscences

An old man stares back at me from my bathroom mirror, a man I do not recognize although he does seem strangely familiar. It seems impossible, but this year makes 60 years since I graduated from high school.

In my school days in my part of small-town and rural America, gender roles were set in concrete. Girls took Home Economics* (cooking in the fall, sewing in the spring) and boys took Vocational Agriculture (Vo Ag for short), even boys like me who had absolutely no interest in farming or agriculture. In our school district the "choose an elective" list was rather short. I took vocational agriculture for one year only, 9th grade, my first year of high school. I learned a lot, actually, and was a member of several teams at competitive interscholastic meets. Land judging, dairy cattle judging, beef cattle judging, hog judging, poultry judging, grading of eggs, you name it, I did it. You don't want to know how to determine whether a hen is a good layer of eggs; the answer has nothing to do with looking in the nest. I can still identify various breeds of cattle and hogs and chickens. My project for the year -- we all had to have one -- was raising a Hampshire pig whom (or which) I dubbed Lady Henrietta. At the end of the year my dad had her slaughtered and we enjoyed (if that is the right word) ham and bacon and pork for some time afterward.

*nowadays it's called Consumer Science.

After my 9th-grade year my electives included Typing, Shorthand, Concert Band, Marching Band, and Chorus. Although I wanted to take Drivers Education (my parents did not own a car), I could not because the only period Drivers Ed was taught conflicted with Band. As a result, I didn't learn how to drive a car until I was almost 22 years old; it happened after Ellie and I became engaged. I thought it would look rather strange for the bride to drive the car away from the church. Necessity is the mother of both invention and getting your rear in gear (to continue the automotive metaphor) when the occasion calls for it.

Boys never took Home Ec and girls never took Vo Ag. But boys took Typing if they wished even though most of the students were girls who aspired to enter the working world as secretaries. No boy in my school had ever signed up for Shorthand until I came along. I figured it would help me take notes in college in the days before cassette tape recorders, and I was right. What I took, in case you were wondering, was Gregg Diamond Jubilee Shorthand With Brief Forms. I can't remember if that was the actual name of the class, but it's how I remember it. I was valedictorian of the class of 1958, and the following year, when Tommy C. became the second boy in the history of the school to take Shorthand, he became valedictorian of the class of 1959. Whether there is a cause and effect there, I cannot say.

The shorthand stood me in good stead through the years, and most people seemed surprised that I knew how to do it. One of my supervisors at IBM, Jim P., wasn't surprised, though, as he had formerly been one of three male executive secretaries to Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder and CEO of IBM. From what I understand, when an IBM executive traveled in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, it was a no-no for a woman secretary to travel with him. Hence, chaps like Jim P. were in demand.

In case you didn't notice, I'm just rambling with this post and going nowhere in particular.

Speaking of band, here's a photo of my youngest grandson, now a senior in high school, playing his trumpet with some of the members of his school's band. He looks very intense, and all grown up.

Finally, here's Mrs. RWP's latest creation, a crocheted baby blanket (it's the blanket that's crocheted, not the baby) for a young couple at our church. The color (British, colour) is not true because the photo was taken late in the afternoon in a room on the east side of our house. Although it appears to be almost lavender, it is in reality a beautiful shade of pink.

And now, for the big reveal, here it is unfolded:

Tomorrow would have been my parents' wedding anniversary, and the day after that is the day my wife's mother died in 1986 and our second grandchild was born in 1996.

I think I have run out of things to tell you.

For your reading pleasure, this post has contained nothing at all about either Aretha Franklin or Senator John McCain, which is all that has been on television this week in the good old U S of A.

See you next time.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Alert the media! I am occasionally wrong

Speaking of questions, Bob M., my treadmill buddy at cardiac rehab three days a week, asked one out of the blue on Thursday. We had just checked our blood pressures when he suddenly asked, apropos of nothing, "Who said 'a chicken in every pot'?"

I said, "Al Smith, I think, but I will look it up to make sure."

Since Bob is 80, I didn't have to explain who Al Smith was.

It was not Al Smith.

I was wrong.

I was close, though (they say "close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades). I was definitely in the right neighborhood. In the U.S. presidential election of 1928, Republican candidate Herbert Hoover won the electoral college vote 444 to 87, defeating the Democratic candidate, Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York. During the presidential campaign, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.“ I had the right year but the wrong guy.

Note that Herbert Hoover himself never specifically made such a promise, but that was the perception throughout the land. In actuality, less than a year after his election the stock market crashed. During the decade-long Great Depression that followed, many people didn't have chickens, pots, cars, or garages.

A memorable thing happened in 1931 when, on the president's birthday, radio announcer Harry Von Zell goofed, creating one of the most famous spoonerisms of all time when he inadvertently referred to Herbert Hoover as Hoobert Heever.

Which one looks more presidential to you?

To my mind, Mr. Hoover looks like a very kind Methodist minister (he was Quaker) and Mr. Smith looks like either a robber baron of the Victorian era or a New York City police commissioner.

Not that I'm given to making snap judgments.


Later, while we were walking on adjacent treadmills, I asked Bob why he had asked me that question. He replied that he had seen his wife putting a chicken in a roaster pan.

Moral of today's post: There is generally a perfectly logical reason for everything that happens even if you can't see it at the time.