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More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time.

————

But You Didn’t

By Merrill Glass

Glass M

Elva Merrill Glass Barnett (1911-1985)

Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?
I thought you’d kill me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was
formal, and you came in jeans?
I thought you’d hate me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the times I’d flirt with
other boys just to make you jealous, and
you were?
I thought you’d drop me…
But you didn’t.

There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,
to keep me happy, to love me, and there are
so many things I wanted to tell
you when you returned from
Vietnam…
But you didn’t.

————

This Is Just To Say

By William Carlos Williams

Williams WC

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

————

The Man with the Wooden Leg

By Katherine Mansfield

Mansfield K

Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp Murry (1888-1923)

There was a man lived quite near us;
He had a wooden leg and a goldfinch in a green cage.
His name was Farkey Anderson,
And he’d been in a war to get his leg.

We were very sad about him,
Because he had such a beautiful smile
And was such a big man to live in a very small house.

When he walked on the road his leg did not matter so much;
But when he walked in his little house
It made an ugly noise.

Little Brother said his goldfinch sang the loudest of all birds,
So that he should not hear his poor leg
And feel too sorry about it.

————

Fire and Ice

By Robert Frost

Frost R

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

————

The Reason

By Stevie Smith

Smith Stevie

Florence Margaret Smith (1902-1971)

My life is vile
I hate it so
I’ll wait awhile
And then I’ll go.

Why wait at all?
Hope springs alive,
Good may befall
I yet may thrive.

It is because I can’t make up my mind
If God is good, impotent or unkind.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

— Henry David Thoreau

###

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.

— John Ruskin

###

I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.

— Walt Whitman

Thoreau HD

Thoreau

Walt Whitman

Whitman

Smokescreens

A decade ago, an editorial cartoon by the great Kirk Anderson observed that cats are like Democrats and dogs are like Republicans. The analogy remains as valid today as it was then.

But, in one sense, the reverse is true.

Consider the fact that dogs are uncomplicated, guileless creatures. Dogs have no hidden agendas. With dogs, what you see is what you get.

Cats, on the other hand, are sneaky little bastards, cold-hearted and lethal. With cats, you are advised to be on guard. The average cat is plotting something ugly.

Now consider how this observation plays out in our politics — how liberals conduct themselves compared to conservatives.

With the lefties, what you see is what you get. Liberals want to use government and our common resources to make life better and safer. They consider that to be the fundamental purpose of any government.

The liberal mindset is clear and straightforward. There are no facades, no deceptions, no smokescreens.

With conservatives, everything is a smokescreen. They are honest and candid about nothing.

At every opportunity, Republicans in Congress work to undermine government involvement in the healthcare system because they don’t believe government should be involved in healthcare.

But they don’t have the guts to admit it. They claim their goal is to make your healthcare better. Puh-leeze.

Republican politicians pass laws designed to make voter registration and voting more difficult, because lower turnout always benefits Republicans.

But they don’t have the stones to own up to what they’re doing. They insist they are protecting the nation from “voter fraud.” Voted fraud is a fabricated, non-existent, laughable threat.

Republicans despise government funding of social programs, Planned Parenthood, NPR, the arts, etc., because those are do-gooder programs. Do-gooder programs elevate the right’s collective blood pressure.

But they can’t make themselves admit that publicly. Instead, they claim they want to rein in wasteful government spending.

The irony here is that conservatives are just as transparent as liberals, and we all know it. But the right-wingers lack the conviction to admit their beliefs in the light of day. Hence, smokescreens.

Let’s be real. Republican politicians are an opportunistic, cynical, and despicable bunch. They reaffirm my contempt with every breath.

Most Republican voters, on the other hand, are normal enough people. While they clearly have more hang-ups and issues, they are no more evil and malicious than anyone else.

But they embraced a philosophy that is precisely that.

The Republican ideology is, on its face, selfish and mean. Fundamentally, Republican doctrine consists of the attitude, “I’ve got mine, go fend for yourself.”

Conservatives still believe, or profess to believe, in the tired old myth that welfare queens are bleeding the nation dry. They believe millions of lazy deadbeats are living the good life at the expense of honest, hard-working Republicans like themselves.

They believe that if you’re poor or sick, it’s your own fault; you didn’t work hard enough or plan ahead adequately. And furthermore, it isn’t the job of government to step forward and help you. Tough cheese, pal. Now get lost.

Sneaky, cold-hearted, and lethal. Cat-like to the core.

President Trump Speaks At The White House After The House Voted On Health Care Bill

 

Ten Seconds

Richard Thieme, a former Episcopal priest, writes about how technology impacts people and society. His popular online column “Islands in the Clickstream” began in the 1990s.

Thieme also writes fiction on the subject. This short story from 1963 is an example.

————

Pleasant Journey

By Richard F. Thieme
Published in Analog Science Fact & Fiction, November 1963.

“What do you call it?” the buyer asked Jenkins.

“I named it ‘Journey Home’ but you can think up a better name for it if you want. I’ll guarantee that it sells, though. There’s nothing like it on any midway.”

“I’d like to try it out first, of course,” Allenby said. “Star-Time uses only the very best, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” Jenkins said. He had heard the line before, from almost every carnival buyer to whom he had sold. He did not do much business with the carnivals; there weren’t enough to keep him busy with large or worthwhile rides and features. The amusement parks of the big cities were usually the best markets.

Allenby warily eyed the entrance, a room fashioned from a side-show booth. A rough red curtain concealed the inside. Over the doorway, in crude dark blue paint, was lettered, “Journey Home.” Behind the doorway was a large barnlike structure, newly painted white, where Jenkins did his planning, his building, and his finishing. When he sold a new ride it was either transported from inside the building through the large, pull-away doors in back or taken apart piece by piece and shipped to the park or carny that bought it.

“Six thousand’s a lot of money,” the buyer said.

“Just try it,” Jenkins told him.

The buyer shrugged. “O.K.,” he said. “Let’s go in.” They walked through the red curtain. Inside the booth-entrance was a soft-cushioned easy-chair, also red, secured firmly in place. It was a piece of salvage from a two-engine commercial airplane. A helmet looking like a Flash Gordon accessory-hair drier combination was set over it. Jenkins flipped a switch and the room became bright with light. “I thought you said this wasn’t a thrill ride,” Allenby said, looking at the helmetlike structure ominously hanging over the chair.

“It isn’t,” Jenkins said, smiling. “Sit down.” He strapped the buyer into place in the chair.

“Hey, wait a minute,” Allenby protested. “Why the straps?”

“Leave everything to me and don’t worry,” Jenkins said, fitting the headgear into place over the buyer’s head. The back of it fitted easily over the entire rear of the skull, down to his neck. The front came just below the eyes. After turning the light off, Jenkins pulled the curtain closed. It was completely black inside.

“Have a nice trip,” Jenkins said, pulling a switch on the wall and pushing a button on the back of the chair at the same time.

Currents shifted and repatterned themselves inside the helmet and were fed into Allenby at the base of his skull, at the medulla. The currents of alternating ions mixed with the currents of his varied and random brain waves, and the impulses of one became the impulses of the other. Allenby jerked once with the initial shock and was then still, his mind and body fused with the pulsating currents of the chair.

Suddenly, Roger Allenby was almost blinded by bright, naked light. Allenby’s first impression was one of disappointment at the failure of the device. Jenkins was reliable, usually, and hadn’t come up with a fluke yet.

Allenby got out of the chair and called for Jenkins, holding on to the arm of the chair to keep his bearings. “Hey! Where are you? Jenkins!” He tried to look around him but the bright, intense light revealed nothing. He swore to himself, extending his arms in front of him for something to grasp.

As he groped for a solid, the light became more subdued and shifted from white into a light, pleasant blue.

Shapes and forms rearranged themselves in front of him and gradually became distinguishable. He was in a city, or on top of a city. A panoramic view was before him and he saw the creations of human beings, obviously, but a culture far removed from his. A slight path of white began at his feet and expanded as it fell slightly, ramplike, over and into the city. The buildings were whiter than the gate of false dreams that Penelope sung of and the streets and avenues were blue, not gray. The people wore white and milled about in the streets below him. They shouted as one; their voices were not cries but songs and they sang his name.

He started walking on the white strip. It was flexible and supported his weight easily. Then he was running, finding his breath coming in sharp gasps and he was among the crowds. They smiled at him as he passed by and held out their hands to him. Their faces shone with a brilliance of awareness and he knew that they loved him. Troubled, frightened, he kept running, blindly, and, abruptly, there were no people, no buildings.

He was walking now, at the left side of a modern super-highway, against the traffic. Autos sped by him, too quickly for him to determine the year of model. Across the divider the traffic was heavier, autos speeding crazily ahead in the direction he was walking; none stopped. He halted for a moment and looked around him. There was nothing on the sides of the road: no people, no fields, no farms, no cities, no blackness. There was nothing. But far ahead there was green etched around the horizon as the road dipped and the cars sped over it. He walked more quickly, catching his breath, and came closer and closer to the green.

Allenby stopped momentarily and turned around, looking at the highway that was behind him. It was gone. Only bleak, black and gray hills of rock and rubble were there, no cars, no life. He shuddered and continued on toward the end of the highway. The green blended in with the blue of the sky now. Closer he came, until just over the next rise in the road the green was bright. Not knowing or caring why, he was filled with expectation and he ran again and was in the meadow.

All around him were the greens of the grasses and leaves and the yellows and blues of the field flowers. It was warm, a spring day, with none of the discomfort of summer heat. Jubilant, Roger spun around in circles, inhaling the fragrance of the field, listening to the hum of insect life stirring back to awareness after a season of inactivity. Then he was running and tumbling, barefoot, his shirt open, feeling the soft grass give way underfoot and the soil was good and rich beneath him.

He saw a stream ahead, with clear water melodiously flowing by him. He went to it and drank, the cold, good water quenching all his thirst, clearing all the stickiness of his throat and mind. He dashed the water on his face and was happy and felt the coolness of it as the breeze picked up and swept his hair over his forehead. With a shake of his head he tossed it back in place and ran again, feeling the air rush into his lungs with coolness and vibrance unknown since adolescence. No nicotine spasms choked him and the air was refreshing.

Then up the hill he sped, pushing hard, as the marigolds and dandelions parted before him. At the top he stopped and looked and smiled ecstatically as he saw the green rolling land and the stream, curving around from behind the house, his house, the oaks forming a secret lair behind it, and he felt the youth of the world in his lungs and under his feet. He heard the voice calling from that house, his house, calling him to Saturday lunch.

“I’m coming!” he cried happily and was tumbling down the hill, rolling over and over, the hill and ground and sky blending blues and greens and nothing had perspective. The world was spinning and everything was black again. He shook his head to clear the dizziness.

“Well?” Jenkins said. “How was it?”

Allenby looked up at him as Jenkins swung the helmet back and unhooked the seatbelt. He squinted as Jenkins flipped the light switch and the brightness hit him.

His surroundings became distinguishable again very slowly and he knew he was back in the room. “Where was I?” he asked.

Jenkins shrugged. “I don’t know. It was all yours. You went wherever you wanted to go, wherever home is.” Jenkins smiled down at him. “Did you visit more than one place?” he asked. The buyer nodded. “I thought so. It seems that a person tries a few before finally deciding where to go.”

The buyer stood up and stretched. “Could I please see the barn?” he asked, meaning the huge workshop where Jenkins did the construction work.

“Sure,” Jenkins said and opened the door opposite the red curtain into the workshop. It was empty.

“You mean it was all up here? I didn’t move at all?” He tapped his cranium with his index finger.

“That’s right,” Jenkins said anxiously. “Do you want it or not?”

Allenby stood looking into the empty room. “Yes… yes, of course,” he said. “How long did the whole thing last?”

“About ten seconds,” Jenkins said, looking at his watch. “It seems much longer to the traveler. I’m not sure, but I think the imagined time varies with each person. It’s always around ten seconds of actual time, though, so you can make a lot of money on it, even if you only have one machine.”

“Money?” Allenby said. “Money, yes, of course.” He took a checkbook from his inside pocket and hurriedly wrote a check for six thousand dollars. “When can we have it delivered?” he asked.

“You want it shipped the usual way?”

“No,” Allenby said, staring at the red-cushioned chair. “Send it air freight. Then bill us for the expense.”

“Whatever you say,” Jenkins said, smiling, taking the check. “You’ll have it by the first of the week, probably. I’ll put a complete parts and assembly manual inside the crate.”

“Good, good. But maybe I should test it again, you know. Star-Time can’t really afford to make a mistake as expensive as this.”

“No,” Jenkins said quickly. Then, “I’ll guarantee it, of course. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll give you a full refund. But don’t try it again, today. Don’t let anyone have it more than once in one day. Stamp them on the hand or something when they take the trip.”

“Why?”

Jenkins looked troubled. “I’m not sure, but people might not want to come back. Too many times in a row and they might be able to stay there… in their minds of course.”

“Of course, of course. Well, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Jenkins. I hope to see you again soon.” They walked back to Allenby’s not-very-late model car and shook hands. Allenby drove away.

On the way back to the hotel, and as he lay for a long time in the bathtub, letting the warmness drift away from the water, the thought ran over and over in his mind. They might be able to stay there, Allenby said to himself. They might be able to stay there. He smiled warmly at a crack in the plaster as he thought of the first of the week and the fragrant meadow.

Pleasant Journey

Original illustration from Analog Science Fact & Fiction by George Schelling.

The 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidwas a major hit, and so was Bob Dylan’s soundtrack. The album became a best-seller.

Most of the songs are instrumentals and supportive of the plot, but the exception was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which turned out to be a significant hit single in its day.

The song is slow, simple, and emotional. It consists of the last words (I assume) of a mortally wounded (I assume) deputy sheriff to his wife. One music critic called the song “an exercise in splendid simplicity.”

PG&BK

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

By Bob Dylan, 1973
Written by Bob Dylan

Mama, take this badge off of me.
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Mama, put my guns in the ground.
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

 

This Just In

EAST PALESTINE, OHIO — While his parents slept, an eight-year-old boy learned to drive a car by watching an online video, then took the family van to a nearby McDonald’s to get a cheeseburger.

Police said the boy got a hankering for a cheeseburger at about 8 PM, after both parents had fallen asleep. The boy watched an instructional video on YouTube, put his four-year-old sister in his father’s van, and drove almost two miles through several intersections to the drive-through window at a McDonald’s.

When the boy ordered two cheeseburgers, the employees at first thought they were being pranked, assuming the parents were in the back seat. When they realized the children were alone, they quickly called police.

The boy broke down in tears, but he and his sister were allowed to eat their cheeseburgers while waiting to be picked up.

Tutorial

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Cleveland police say an attempted carjacking by two teenagers failed because neither carjacker could operate a stick shift, even with coaching from the victim.

Police said the perpetrators, ages 18 and 17, had committed two armed carjackings successfully, but were foiled because the third vehicle had a manual transmission.

The older teen pointed a gun at the victim and ordered him to explain how to shift gears. The driver complied, but eventually, the teens gave up. They ran away, taking the driver’s cellphone with them.

Police promptly traced the cellphone and arrested them.

Stick shift

TUCSON, ARIZONA — A man prowling around a Tucson elementary school ended up hanging from a gate, upside-down and helpless, when he tried to flee.

According to police, the man was spotted on the fenced campus of Miles Elementary School by a locksmith. School was not in session at the time.

When confronted, the intruder ran, slipped while climbing over a locked gate, and was trapped by his own pants.

Tucson police freed the man and took him into custody.

Trapped

 

I’m trying to puzzle out the story of my paternal great-great-grandfather based on a smattering of tantalizing facts. He seems to have led an eventful life in interesting times, and I’d like to know more about him.

The ancestor of whom I speak is John Hubbard Sherrod, M.D. He was born in 1830 in Emanuel County, Georgia, midway between Macon and Savannah.

His connection to the present-day Smiths: Dr. Sherrod’s daughter Martha married a Smith from the next county. Their son was my Savannah grandfather.

This is what I’ve learned about Dr. Sherrod so far…

Family notes say he probably was born in Norristown, Georgia, the son of Mrs. Elizabeth Sherrod, who was born in 1792, maiden name unknown. Nothing so far about his father or any siblings.

In 1851, at age 21, Dr. Sherrod married Elizabeth Moxley of nearby Jefferson County. By the time the Civil War started, John and Elizabeth had three daughters, Martha, Elizabeth, and Susan, born in 1854, 1857, and 1861, respectively.

When and where Sherrod earned a medical degree, I don’t know. Nor do I have information about earlier Sherrods and Moxleys. Considering his profession, I assume the families were fairly prosperous, but were they merchants? Farmers? Owners of vast cotton plantations? All unknown.

When the Civil War began, Sherrod served as a first lieutenant and Adjutant (second in command) of Company C, 38th Georgia Infantry, CSA. According to military records, the unit completed its training in April 1862, at which time Lt. Sherrod tendered his resignation. Whether he joined another unit or simply went home, I haven’t discovered yet.

I do know that he survived the war, and in 1867, he was appointed judge of Emanuel County civil court. He and Elizabeth also had two more children, John and Margaret, born in 1869 and 1871.

During the Reconstruction years, the history of the Sherrod family becomes fuzzier. Elizabeth died of unknown causes, and Dr. Sherrod remarried.

His second wife was Sudie Dunn, also from Emanuel County. The Dunns seem to have been as numerous thereabouts as Sherrods and Smiths.

John and Sudie Sherrod had at least three children: Charlie, Joe, and Jessie. Charlie was born in 1886, when Dr. Sherrod was 56.

Dr. Sherrod continued to practice medicine in Emanuel County, and/or made a living in some other way, for two more decades. Finding out how long he served as a judge is on my to-do list.

John Sherrod died in 1903 at age 73. After some Googling, I located his grave at a small Methodist church cemetery a few miles south of the Emanuel County line in Treutlen County. Last month, I drove down to pay my respects.

Neither wife, I discovered, is buried with him. I haven’t located the graves of either Elizabeth or Sudie, nor have I uncovered more information about them.

However, buried next to Dr. Sherrod are his daughter Elizabeth (by his first wife), his son Charlie (by his second wife), and various other Sherrods and Dunns whose connections are unknown. The head of the family surrounded by his flock, as it were.

Dr. Sherrod’s gravestone is six feet tall and fairly elaborate and imposing, as you might expect for a small-town prominent citizen. A separate granite marker with details about his CSA military service sits in front of the headstone.

I was surprised to find a small Confederate flag, a new one, flying next to his grave. It could have been placed by local Confederate history buffs, or it could have been placed by his descendants in the area. Odds are, quite a few of Dr. Sherrod’s relatives, and my own, live in those parts.

The best parts of Dr. Sherrod’s story, I suspect, are still out there — the War, his life afterward, his medical practice, his family. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ferret out more pieces of the puzzle.

Plenty of mysteries, clues, and threads of evidence are there, waiting to consume my spare time.

Sherrod-1

The grave of John Hubbard Sherrod (left) is surrounded by those of assorted Sherrods and other relatives at Midway UMC Cemetery in northern Treutlen County.

Sherrod-2

Dr. Sherrod’s monument prominently features the Masonic letter G with square and compass. The marble CSA marker at the base was placed sometime after his burial. The crisp, new Confederate flag was unexpected.

Sherrod-3

Martha Roseanna Sherrod Smith (1854-1939), my great-grandmother, was the oldest child of John Hubbard Sherrod. In 1875, she married John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), also a Confederate veteran. Their son was my paternal grandfather, Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950). To the family, Martha was “Granny Smith.”