A Dog-Less Hot Dog

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I seem to remember some of the weirdest things, and at the strangest times. Such a childhood memory visited me this morning, and I wasn’t even eating a hotdog!

It happened during the early 50s. This was a time when children were taught, and thought, that all adults were like kings and queens, and were endowed with powers just below presidential status. In other words, we understood that respectful children were most often the happiest children.

My mother’s eldest sister lived next door to us on Evergreen. She moved there from Bogalusa when my uncle died. My mother’s brother, and his family live across the street.

My aunt had left dear friends behind in Bogalusa, but they stayed in touch, and visited one another as often as possible. My aunt’s friend had a daughter, 2 years older than me, and the same age as my female cousin Pat from across the street. Pat and Eleanor were fast friends… who on occasion, would drag me along on their outings.

During this pre-MetroCenter time in south Jackson, on the the spot that was to become MetroCenter, there was a sprawling miniature golf course, And right across the street was a root beer stand. Here, my memory fails me. Was it A&W? Dog ‘N Suds? Frost Top? Anyway, on that golf outing, Eleanor was hungry, so after a round of golf, we drove over to the root beer stand. Eleanor was the last to order, as her order was not a usual order. Her order was not on the menu, and therefore, by their reasoning, out-of-order. I was about to witness teen-rebellion in action!

Eleanor calmly told them that she didn’t want the ‘chili-dog,’ but what she called a ‘chilly.’ “What’s that?” she was asked. “You know, a chili-dog without the wiener on it,” she replied. “We don’t have those,” replied the adult voice. “It’s not on the menu, so I don’t know what to charge for it.”

The adult voice was probably not expecting what was about to come.

“If I was a mother wanting only a wiener for my child, how much would you charge me for it?” she asked. There was a long pause. The adult was thinking. “Twenty cents,” he finally replied. (The cost then of the chili dog on the menu was thirty-five cents). “OK,” began Eleanor, “That’s easy. You keep your twenty cent wiener, and subtract that from the thirty-five cents, which leave me with fifteen cents which I owe you for a my chilly.”

You really can’t say that Eleanor was ‘arguing’ with an adult, although it was a simple, but very calm, confrontation. The end result truly had no winner. The root beer stand made their money, Eleanor got her chilly, and I didn’t wet my pants during their exchange.

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Oh Little Town of Carterville

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always thought of myself as a city-boy. I was born and raised in Jackson, MS… not exactly Dallas or New York, but not tiny-town-country either.

In 2013, Carol and I retired from the 40 hour a week workforce, moved to the small town of Carterville, Illinois where most of our kids, and grandkids live, and began life anew as 24 hour a day retirees.

Carterville’s located midway between Marion (on, I-57) and Carbondale (on Old US 51), and about 50 north of the southernmost border of the state. It’s a very old coal mining town. Our main street downtown stretches for all of 3 blocks, and we have only 3 or 4 traffic lights… not exactly Mayberry RFD, but close.

We live within a half mile of a great junior college, where I’ve taken several courses, fifty yards from a golf course, 2 miles from a huge lake with great fishing, 5 miles from Kroger and Walmart… and only one mile from a Dollar General. Yes, we have all the necessary creature comforts.

Did I mention our wild-life? We’ve had several deer in our front yard, an owl perched on the stop sign at the corner of our yard, once had to wait before turning unto our driveway until a skunk ambled off… and had to evict 3 possums from inside the house! (A workman forgot to secure the crawl-space entrance!)

But to me, the stop sign at the end of our short little street proclaims Carterville perfectly. It’s not a city beautification project… just wildflowers doing their own thing… on very public property. Locals keep the foliage from covering red hexagon area.

I believe I’ve adapted rather well to small town living, in Oh Little Town of Carterville.

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He Is Good All The Time

© 2019 Bill Murphy

We sang a song in a church I once attended that said, “He is good all the time.  All the time, He is good.”  How very true.  

I believe in thanking Him all the time, and all the time thanking Him, even for those tiny little things that may not mean much to others.  I’d rather thank Him ‘needlessly’ for something He didn’t supply… than to miss thanking Him for something He did!  This past week, one of those ‘silly little things’ happened.

Carol and I were returning home from Alabama, where we had attended my brother-in-law’s funeral.  We were somewhere in rural Tennessee, the day was overcast, and we were already in a somber mood.  Carol was driving… and I was simply watching the world go by.  Ahead, to the right, I beheld an amazing sight.  It was amazing to me anyway.  I believe that God knew that I needed a small shot of sunshine, a little dose of smiles, something lighthearted and upbeat.  The scene we passed was right out of a child’s nursery rhyme, but instead of a drawing, this was in living color.  There was a broad, flat meadow of lush, green grass.  This field lay at the base of a gentle hill, not much more than a low mound.  This high area was solidly covered with bright green corn stalks… which extended over this little hill and for acres and acres beyond.  And standing right up next to the corn…  the cornstalks brushing their sides… was a herd of brown and white cows.  And I thought…

Little boy blue,

Come blow your horn,

The sheeps in the meadow,

And the cows in the corn.  

Amazing! I couldn’t help but grin! 

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SMOKE HOUSE

© 2019 Bil Murphy

Who remembers playing in the old smokehouse? I’m not talking about your local tobacco store either! Unless you’re like me, older than dirt, then you’ve probably never had the blessing of smokehouse fun.

Pappa and Mamma Murphy had a ‘working’ smokehouse when I was a kid in short pants. It sat a few feet from the rear of their house in Carthage, MS, and a few dozen yards from where those hams were born and raised. Because my Dad loved his parents dearly, we visited Carthage often, much to my approval and delight!

The ole smokehouse was no more than eight feet square, with a low roof. Hams hung from the rafters at about eye level. It smelled… what can I say… almost heavenly in the place… but it was dark inside. Because it was a valuable asset to the farm, and a major source along their food chain, our care-free play time inside of it was strictly limited.

Occasionally, a friend or distant cousin would visit who was ‘out of the loop’ of our country fun activities, and we’d suggest a game of follow the leader.

The smoked hams hung from the rafters of the low roof by strong cords, making the lower portion of the heavy hams about eye level to an eight or ten year old. Perfect! We’d entice the unsuspecting newcomer to follow us inside that dark and sweet smelling place. The aroma alone was enough to shock your senses, and throw your thinking off balance.

Did I mention that these the hams hung down… looking for all the world like punching bags in a prize fighter’s gym?

The leader would wait until the door was closed, and it was once again dark inside, and the unsuspecting victim was pressing close to the leader for guidance… and then the leader would reach forward and push a ham forward… and then release it… and duck! Instead of egg in your face, the poor visitor got twelve pounds of ham in the face!

My grand and great-grand kids think that I must have had a boring childhood… because I had no cell phone, no TV, no radio controlled toys, no video games.

And I shake my head and think what an artificial childhood they are having, because they have no smokehouses, hay lofts, peanut patches, nor have they ever experienced drinking cool fresh water that they themselves have drawn from a well with a bucket on a rope.

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Tiddleywinks!

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always been told that profanity’s purpose is to express emphasis.  The example is: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a tiddleywink,” did not place the desired emphasis on Rhett Butler’s parting line to Scarlett O’Hara.  Therefore, tiddlywink was replaced.

My father taught by example more than lecture.  However, I do remember the day when he discussed with me the topic of profanity.  Something happened, and I blurted out the simple, lily-white expletive “DRAT!”

Dad had a lot to say about “drat.”  He explained to me the concept that words are but representations of what we are attempting to portray.  He went on to explain that although ‘drat’ was a perfectly acceptable Sunday School word, I was using it as a stand-in to portray some stronger word… such as the four-letter street word used as for human/animal excrement.

Then Dad went on to explain that it was not the word itself that was in question.  It was the original thought or meaning behind the word.  Drat was only a stand-in for what I wanted to use, yet feared to use.

How true.

I know, this was a 1940s lecture, spoken by a father to a son living way back in another time and age!  Today we are… what do they say… enlightened.  Sorry,  I question that!

I suppose that the real question here is:  Is there a line somewhere, in some place, at some point in time, where certain words are acceptable here and unacceptable there?

And if there is, WHO is the authority who has the ultimate right to draw this line in the sand?

Yes I know, everyone has a right to their opinion.  That gives me a right to my opinion also.  And my opinion is that: opinions are just… opinions. 

I know also, that there are socially acceptable rights and wrongs… times and places, and around certain people, where the use of profanity might truly matter.  This speech awareness is called common curtesy, being respectful and considerate of others.  Basically it means not allowing your speech to be offensive to others.  The old fashioned word was… conducting yourself in a mannerly way.  Of course, not everyone gives a tiddleywink what other people think.  But what I’m asking is: does it matter to the ONE who it should matter to most of all?  Is profanity offensive to The Almighty?  Would you freely use profanity in His presence?

I suppose that’s a personal question, which requires a personal answer.  

I also suppose that we’ll just have to brace ourselves for what becomes acceptable in American society in the future.

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Lists of Infamy

     

© 2019 Bill Murphy

If Carol and I ever part company, or jugular veins, it’ll not be over money, sex, or family.  Nope!  It will no doubt be over the infamous shopping list, the fly in our happy ointment.  I guess you could say that we can’t see the list for the list.

     I’ve learned, through past misadventure, that ‘peanut butter’ means JIFF.  Pity the poor soul who brings home anything less.  I’ve attempted to explain to my dear wife that there are no massive manufacturing and packing facilities under the KROGER name, where they bottle, can, grow, bake, and build everything from mothballs to baby food.  None.  Nada.  But when we travel, she keeps a keen eye open to find one of these magical, all-purpose facilities.  I’d like to seen one too.  It must be massive!

     In my defense, I’m not psychic – psychotic maybe – but I can’t read minds, nor can I, obviously, read lists, or labels.  GRAPES the list says.  Yes, I know the difference between grapes and bananas.  No problem there.  But there are more varieties of grapes in the produce department than commercials on TV.  And Kroger purposefully confuses the issue.  The ‘white’ ones sure look green to me.  The ‘black’ ones look blue.  The ‘red’ ones are definitely purple!  I have a college DEGREE in art, and I know my colors – just sadly, not my grapes.

     I seldom get everything on the list correctly.  She lists one way.  I list the other. My vain attempts to ‘help out and do my part’ quickly goes to Hellman’s in a hand basket.  I can’t understand why we have these demon-list-problems we have.  The woman who takes hours to find simple sneakers at the shoe store, can’t understand why I’m in the grocery store 45 minutes and still can’t locate the correct yogurt.  (Kroger has more yogurts than grapes!)

     Don’t get me started on CEREAL.

     Alas… it’s a good thing we’ve ‘matured’ beyond the ‘feminine products’ stage of our lives.  That’s one good thing about growing old(er).

     Have you seen my list?  I’ve lost the list.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… 

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Tuesday. Bluesday.

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and I’ll agree.  Many of those mis-guided intentions begin right close to home… some even in the home.

In the closing years of the 1940s, my mother decided that I should take piano lessons.  I’m not sure just why this conclusion was reached.  I don’t think I was prone to play with musical toys, and I certainly was no songbird.  

But piano lessons were readily available.  The pianist from our church, Miss Nellie Robinson, lived within walking distance of our home.  She gave piano lessons.  And she agreed to take me on.

Come to think of it now… our family must have purchased a piano on which I could practice.  Neither Dad nor Mom played, and my sister was far too young at the time to do anything short of banging on the keys.  Anyway, a playable upright appeared at 802 Evergreen.

What a waste!

Soon I was either stopping off for lessons on my way home from George School… or walking back the short distance to Miss Nellie’s on Walnut Street.  My lessons were on Tuesdays.  Always on Tuesdays.

I didn’t take well to the piano, neither Miss Nellie’s nor ours.  A piano is a piano I suppose… just as a scorpion is a scorpion.  I never got the hang of tickling the ivories, anymore than I’d have learned to tickle a scorpion.  My young heart and fingers simple weren’t in it.  Perhaps if I’d been born a few years later, Bill Haley or Little Richard might have inspired me to try harder.  But at that time, my time, I had no desire to try harder.  According to Miss Nellie, I didn’t try at all!

Tuesdays became a huge blemish on calendars.  Where everyone else saw the second day of the week, I saw the green wicked witch of the east mocking me!  “TUESDAY…  I’ll get you my sweetieeeee….”  

I learned to loath Tuesdays, to dread them.  The path to Miss Nellie’s became my green mile.

I don’t remember how long this piano-purgatory lasted.  It felt as though it was until I was twenty seven. When you’re in distress, young or old, time slows.  And it was Miss Nellie herself who finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and led me to safety.

“Mrs. Murphy,” she said to my mother, “You’re wasting your money and my time with Billy.  So far, he’s not learned a single note past middle C.  Everything he plays… he plays by ear!”

Hallelujah, my days of musical misery were over!  I was free!  I’d done my small part to save the elephants!

But Bluesday was not through with me.  So deep was my disdain, so strong was my dread of the second day of the week… that it took many, many years for me to overcome my ingrained discomfort of Tuesday… all fifty two of them each year!  Yes, I’m truthful when I say ‘many years.’  I finally ‘think’ I can say that Tuesday is now, just what it is, and what it was always intended to be… simply Tuesday. 

A footnote to Music with the Murphy’s:  My sister, Mary Lily, went on to reclaim our family’s musical honor.  She also took lessons from Miss Nellie… and very successfully I might add.  So, the purchase of ‘Billy’s piano’ wasn’t for naught.  Mary, always a go-getter, went on to play in the Enochs Junior High and Central High bands.  And while not being content to simply do well with her Oboe, she also mastered every single instrument in the band!

Yes, we have a piano in our home today.  No, I still don’t play, neither by finger nor ear.  Carol does, as well as one of our daughters.  And, as I write these words while not in a twit – today actually is Tuesday!  

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