Today is actually June 25, 2020 – not yesterday as I erroneously reported. Today really is Log Cabin Day, yesterday was International Fairy (Faery) Day, and Tuesday, June 23rd was National Columnists Day. My bad. I skipped over it in my list of holidays and recognitions…I think maybe the fairies made me do it…must have played a trick on me. Of course, this is all very confusing to you because I write this blog on the day before I post it, using the date that I write it as the header instead of the date you receive it.
Regardless of the date, I want to take a minute for a “shout out” to National Columnists Day. It was created for two purposes. First, to honor Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Scripps-Howard news syndicate who died during the World War II Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He was best known for his articles about ordinary American soldiers during the war. Second, it recognizes more generally the value of writers and columnists in all forms of media. In an hour when “fake news” tends to win the day, writers and columnists are valuable for putting out truth, exercising the rights in the First Amendment, and preserving it for now and the future:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Article I, Contitution of the United States of America.
halfway to christmas
Today, June 25, marks six more months until Christmas. It has always been my family’s tradition to celebrate Christmas, given our Lutheran and Methodist traditions. My two oldest sisters were raised as Lutherans and my youngest sister and I were raised as Methodists. Don’t know why…it just was.
Specifically, we celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve which was our family tradition. Happily, Clemencia’s family tradition is also Navidad (“Christmas Eve” in Spanish), which means we can sleep in on Christmas morning.
My mother would stock pile baking supplies through the summer and then, in October, get really serious about baking for the holiday. She made all sorts of fudge, divinity, and cookies, including Zimmer and Springele, which are two types of traditional German cookies. Zimmer are spiced cookies and the Springele are more commonly known as as “Anise Cakes.” I’ve got both recipes but have only really focused on making Springele. I don’t usually fire up the oven to make them until November and, if I remember this year, I’ll take pictures and post them. They are not only tasty, they are also very artistic.
At Christmas, my brother-in-law Boomer would make the chili. Boomer, you may remember, was my biker/racer/father figure. He made a really excellent chili. I never knew what he put in it – and probably don’t ever want to know – but it was extremely good. None of it was ever left over for Christmas Day.
Boomer worked much of his life in the building trades. He learned cabinet making from a master carpenter in our hometown. Later, he transitioned to building steel infrastructure for buildings and worked for another man in our town who had a very successful steel and concrete business. However, he never gave up carpentry and woodworking.
He built two of the three house he and my sister lived in. In fact, my sister still lives in the second one he built. I remember he also built the kitchen cabinets in our farm house. To save money for my parents he built them out of plywood but they were naturally finished, very beautiful, and extremely strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still in use. In fact, they may be the only thing that is keeping the house standing (and it is still standing, by the way).
When Boomer was “in the zone” while he worked, he would whistle. Most often, he would whistle the song Mountain of Love. The song was written and first recorded by Harold Dorman in 1960. It is a memorable – some would say infectious – rockabilly tune that gets into your head and stays for a little while. It remains one of my favorites. The song has been covered by many artists over the last 60 years, including Bruce Springsteen – 12 times in live concerts!
One of the most successful covers was by Johnny Rivers. His 1964 recording went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. His is the version I heard most often played and is the one that I think inspired Boomer’s whistling. Non sequitur alert…in 1993, on the eve of the Great Midwestern Flood, as the river was rising only a 100 yards or so away, I got to see Johnny Rivers perform the song live in Des Moines, Iowa. It was the night before the start of the Des Moines Grand Prix which was, of course, flooded out and never returned.
The artist who has had the most success with the song, though, is Charley Pride, a former pro baseball player turned country western singer. Charley Pride is also one of the few Black men to be successful in modern country music. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. In the 1970’s, he and Elvis were the best selling artists for RCA records. His country version of Mountain of Love is the only one that ever hit #1 and that was on the Billboard Hot Country Singles in 1982. Charley has a terrific voice and this is a great country version of the song.
chickenman – episode 69
Chickenman checks in at the Police Commissioner’s office only to be given a very special clean up task by Ms. Helfinger.