Monday, November 12, 2018

Musings of An Old English Teacher: Veterans Day

Why isn’t there an apostrophe in Veterans Day? There’s one in Mother’s Day. (And why is that apostrophe before the “s”? There’s more than one mother.) Well, here’s the answer! The United States Department of Veterans Affairs website states that the possessive case (the one with the apostrophe) is not used because Veterans Day "is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans."

I also wondered about other related days and their occasions, like Armistice Day, Memorial Day, Decoration Day, and Remembrance Day. Are you up to a quiz? How much do you know about these special days?


1. What is the purpose of Veterans Day?
2. How is Memorial Day different from Veterans Day?
3. When is Memorial Day?
4. What was the original name of Memorial Day?
5. Why is Veterans Day always on November 11?
6. What is unusual about the time and date of the day?
7. What is the name of the final treaty?
8. What was the original name of Veterans Day?
9. What President proposed the celebration of Armistice Day?
10. Who was President when the name was officially changed to Veterans Day?
11. Why was the name of Armistice Day changed to Veterans Day?
12. What is Remembrance Day?

13. What are the years of WWI?
14. When did the US enter WWI?
15. Why did the US enter WWI?
16. At the time, WWI was called something else. What was it?
17. Which country lost the most people in WWI?
18. What started WWI?
19. What are the names we gave to the two sides in WWI?
20. What countries were on “our“ side?
21. What countries did we fight?
22. What are the best-known battles of WWI? (my guesses – The references give different lists.)
23. What are the best-known figures of WWI? (my guesses – The references give different lists.)

1. What is the purpose of Veterans Day?
Veterans Day honors those who served in the US Armed Forces, both living and dead.
2. How is Memorial Day different from Veterans Day?
Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.
3. When is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday of May.
4. What was the original name of Memorial Day?
Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day. It was an occasion to decorate the graves of the war dead after the Civil War.
5. Why is Veterans Day always on November 11?
Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect.
6. What is unusual about the time and date of the day?
The first treaty, signed in 1918, was temporary; the formal peace agreement came later.
7. What is the name of the final treaty?
The final treaty for World War I was the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919. However, it was signed by the Big Four, not by the US. An associate ally, not one of the Big Four, the US objected to the inclusion of the League of Nations in that treaty and did not sign an agreement with Germany until August 25, 1921, with the Treaty of Berlin.
8. What was the original name of Veterans Day?
Armistice Day
9. What President proposed the celebration of Armistice Day?
Woodrow Wilson, in 1919
10. Who was President when the name was officially changed to Veterans Day?
Dwight Eisenhower, in 1954
11. Why was the name of Armistice Day changed to Veterans Day?
To honor ALL who died in military service, not just in World War I (an idea of Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1945)
12. What is Remembrance Day?
British Commonwealth’s version of Armistice Day
13. What are the years of WWI?
14. When did the US enter WWI?
15, Why did the US enter WWI?
The immediate cause was Germany's sinking of neutral shipping in a designated war-zone. Five American merchant ships went down in March, 1917; Germany destroyed the passenger ship Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans on board.
16. At the time, we called WWI something else. What was it?
The Great War (The War to End All Wars) - 59 million troops were mobilized, over 8 million died, and over 29 million were injured in a struggle which sharply altered the political, economic, social, and cultural nature of Europe. (Different references give different numbers.)
17. Which country lost the most people in WWI?
Those who lost over a million:
   Germany 1,773,700
   Russia 1,700,000
   France 1,357,800
   Austria-Hungary 1,200,000
US 116,516 (mobilized over 4,700,000)
18 What started WWI?
On June 28, 1914, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The assassination set into action a complex network of interlocking alliances throughout Europe.
19. What are the names we gave to the two sides in WWI?
Allies (or Allied Powers) and Central Powers
20. What countries were on “our“ side?
Britain, France, Russia, and Italy were the Big Four. The United States was an “associate” ally.
21. What countries did we fight?
Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, and several others
22. What are the best-known battles of WWI? (my guesses – The references give different lists.)
Marne, Verdun, Ypres, Gallipoli, Somme, Amiens
23. What are the best-known figures of WWI? (my guesses – The references give different lists.)
Kaiser William II - Germany
Czar Nicholas II - Russia
Vladimir Lenin, Revolution Leader - Russia
Prime Minister George Clemenceau - France
President  Woodrow Wilson - USA
Prime Minister David Lloyd George - Great Britain
Marshal Ferdinand Foch, France
Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Germany
General John J. Pershing - USA
Marshal Philippe Petain – France
Lord of Admiralty Winston Churchill – Great Britain
Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, Flying Ace – Germany
Mata Hari, Spy – Central Powers

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

When I Picked Cotton – About 70 Years Ago

The ole cotton fields back home . . . well, almost. Just down the road from my house, anyway, in this picture. But I did pick cotton. Once. Not quite ten years old and a city girl, I was envious that my cousins slung interesting cotton bags across their chests every morning and headed out to the fields to make some money. This was in the cotton-pickin' days in Oneonta, Alabama, in the late forties, when schools were on cotton-pickin' time--closed so most kids could contribute to their families' major source of income. My four cousins were considered responsible enough to work in the fields, but my uncle said I was too citified. What he meant, I thought, was that I just couldn't handle the job. One day, I wanted to go with them. I begged and pleaded and even pouted a little for the privilege of spending the day in such an adventure. Finally, he relented and handed me the bag, a long off-white sack with a wide strap. He also found some overalls and a long-sleeved shirt that almost fit and put a large straw hat on my head. (Where was my cellphone!) I'm now pretty sure that my beloved cousins were snickering behind my back at their visitor’s naivete, but I was too excited to notice. The boys hitched Ole Joe to the wagon and we climbed in for the brief journey to the field, with large woven baskets, water bucket, tin water dipper, and sandwiches. After a brief tutoring session, I eagerly set out to prove that I was worthy.

I quickly learned that a soft white cotton ball grew from a vicious cotton burr with sharp spurs that deliberately pricked fingers, with special awards for blood. I also learned about sawbriars and cockleburs. Sawbriars are cruel vines that grow in cotton fields and sprout tiny sharp teeth and intend to saw your arms off, even through a long-sleeved shirt, and cockleburs are sadistic plants that produce evil creatures that collect on your clothing in an attempt to scratch their way into any exposed skin. I soon began to feel their sharp spikes under my shirt. I also learned that a straw hat doesn't protect your skin from the boiling water dripping down your chest and that the field uniform does not in any way protect you from the savage heat or the fiendish insects that discover your neck. The gnats’ hotels in my eyes made me half-blind, and of course I rubbed two pounds of dirt on my wet face. I was a sweating mess. After dipping more than my share from the bucket, I soon needed to pee. Or was that just shorthand for a short walk over to the trees to stand panting in the shade? My cotton sack, intentionally long enough to be dragged across the dirt, was woefully thin, almost weightless, but it pulled me off balance. And my callous country cousins were singing! I'm sure now that they were laughing at me.

And my uncle thought I couldn't do it. Hmm. Well, he was right. But they had to pick cotton. And I didn't. I slowly walked the long distance back to the house, somewhat dejected, but looking forward to a long, comforting soak in the tub. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Snipe Hunt

Backstory of the Idiom

A snipe is a slender-billed bird of the sandpiper family. Its coloring makes it well-camouflaged in marshy areas. A snipe is so difficult to catch or shoot that sniper refers to someone skilled enough to shoot one.

In a snipe hunt, experienced people make fun of gullible newcomers by giving them an impossible task. A snipe hunt usually takes place within a specific work environment or social group; the task is part of a tradition, similar to hazing.

The phrase snipe hunt originates from a practical joke within a camping context. Inexperienced campers are encouraged (rewards or threats) to catch a snipe, which moves around in the dark from tree to tree. A snipe can be a bird or an animal, depending on who explains the rules. The dupes are given sacks and told the ways to attract a snipe, such as banging rocks together or whistling a specific way, while the other hunters push the snipe toward them. Of course, after getting the greenhorns lost in the woods, the old-timers just go back to the campfire and wait to see how long it takes the newbies to give up and show up.

Meaning of snipe hunt: a futile search or endeavor

I have personal ownership of this idiom. When I moved to a new Girl Scout troop in the sixth grade, the five greenhorns in the group were included in the invitation to a weekend camping trip at a farm in Gold Hill, just outside Auburn. With brand-new sleeping bags on our shoulders, we emerged from family cars feeling both adventurous and apprehensive. None of us had ever slept outside. Overnight. In the dark. But soon we were having fun cooking over a large campfire, with the help of our leader, her husband, and her son. We sang songs and told stories and learned about constellations and petted the two farm dogs.

Then the husband announced that we were going on a snipe hunt. The older girls cheered and talked about how much fun we were going to have. But this time, the new girls would have the most fun because we could catch a snipe, a harmless small animal that traveled in small packs from tree to tree, only in the dark. The son told us that snipes are attracted by a certain kind of noise, something like whistling. When a snipe hears the right sound, it stops to listen. Each of us was given a feed sack, and the older girls demonstrated how to whistle up a snipe. Our leader announced that the girl who caught the snipe would get a great prize, but we were encouraged to help each other. Because that’s what good Girl Scouts do. And the older girls generously said they would try to drive the snipes toward us.

Off we went, away from the fire and the cleared area, into the woods, led by the lanterns of the husband and the son and the barking of the dogs. Somehow, the lanterns disappeared, and we couldn’t hear the dogs. In the increasing darkness of the woods we suddenly noticed that only the five rookies were left. We giggled with semi-fear and tried to tell jokes to keep from freaking out. We walked for what was surely nine or ten hours, whistling. Not for a snipe. Bagging a snipe wasn’t on our minds. I don’t remember how we managed to get back to the campfire, but we were too tired to enjoy the laughter that greeted us. I had no problem sleeping on the ground that night. And I had learned what a snipe isn’t.

My Cousin Billy's Joke

If I close my eyes, I can almost   .    .    .

hear the sounds of Grandmama's switch red-striping Billy's legs. Ten-year-old me chortled, but restrained myself from peering around the corner of the back porch. Grandmama believed that punishment should be private. But I wanted to see him suffer. Lord knows I was suffering. I ran my tongue tentatively around my mouth, wincing as blister met blister. 

Jimmy, sitting listlessly on the porch steps, wiped his nose on his sleeve and sniffled; his mouth was blistered too. Sprawled on the black wicker swing, her head pillowed on her arm, Betty tried to cry herself to sleep.  Bobby noisily ate the cold biscuits and slurped the buttermilk that Grandmama said would ease the burning.

My cousins were totally absorbed with the pain in their own bodies--I was much more interested in Billy's pain, in Billy's punishment. Did the switching hurt? Bad? Would he have to do our chores? All of them? For how long? Smiling at the steady sounds of switch justice, I could hear Billy's bare feet dancing as he jumped up and down on the back porch in rhythmic thuds, trying to avoid the switch, yet not daring to move out of Grandmama's reach.

Maybe next time he'd think twice before he set me up--talking about how good those elephant ears tasted! Who would've thought that those pretty green leaves could raise such blisters! Maybe next visit I wouldn't be dumb enough to fall for another one of his practical jokes.
If I close my eyes, I can almost   .    .    .

hear the sounds of Mama's switch red-striping my legs and the rhythmic thudding of my feet dancing up and down on the kitchen floor. Why was that dumb little kid across the street stupid enough to believe me when I told him about those good-tasting elephant ears?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Good Friends, Good Memories

I am in a nostalgic mood today. I’m dealing with grief, but I’m smiling because I have such good memories of being neighbors and friends with Marvin and Carolyn Vickers.

A little historical background: Before the parsonage for the Seale United Methodist Church was built on McBride Street, the parsonage used to be on what is now called Oswichee Street, my street. My father-in-law had given the property to the church with the provision that it should always be owned by the church. To sell that land in order to build the new parsonage, the church asked my husband, his sister, his three brothers, and all the spouses to sign away our possible claims—something we gladly did.

When we moved to Seale in 1963, Marvin and Carolyn were our neighbors. Warren’s family had already claimed the Vickers as family members, and we soon learned why. They were special. We loved them and they loved us back. Carolyn and my sister-in-law were very close friends and have remained so. Once you were friends with them, you were friends for life. Marvin was a student at Emory’s Candler Seminary in Atlanta during the weekdays and came to Seale on the weekends. Carolyn taught in the elementary school in Seale and lived in the parsonage. My son Tom was a toddler then and was quickly adopted by Marvin and Carolyn. When Sears delivered a large gym set in several boxes to our back yard, Marvin recruited a friend and they worked all day--under Tom’s supervision--to assemble an assortment of swings and a slide. Tom always called Marvin “Uncle Peacher.”

A couple of years later, on a Tuesday night, Carolyn and I were cleaning up the kitchen after a fresh vegetable supper. Warren and Tom were outside. I suddenly started having violent contractions—a few weeks early. Panicked, I turned to her and asked, “What should I do?” Without missing a beat, Carolyn exclaimed, “Doan look at me! Lawdy. I doan know nuthin’ bout birthin’ no babies!” After we stopped laughing, she made sure I got organized for a trip to Columbus, where Ben was born three hours later. After Marvin baptized Ben, he and Carolyn were part of our family celebration at Villula Tea Garden.

We have kept in touch over the years, through distance and time, through children and grandchildren and motorcycles and Korea and Blue Lake. They visited me a couple of years ago, and on June 10, 2017, they attended our church’s 175th Anniversary. 

We lost Carolyn last night. Yes, today I have tears, but I also have a smile. Thank you, Lord, for good friends.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Today is my birthday, and I’m a grandmother. Early this morning I was thinking about my grandmothers—how long they lived, what they were like. My husband’s maternal grandmother was an important part of my life for over a decade. I wrote this tribute to her some time ago and decided to post it today.

The old woman peered over the top of her smudged glasses to identify the visitor, then quickly dropped her eyes to the calico squares on the quilting frame. Her bright blue eyes showed no hint of her 91 years, and her voice was strong and animated. Fingers skillfully pulling the needle down through squares, batting, and lining and then back up through the crazy-quilt top, she greeted me and spoke happily about a letter from a California grandson and--hands too busy to point--nodded her head toward a large cardboard box on the bed. She said a young church friend had just delivered a collection of fabric remnants.

As always, I looked at her crowded room in amazement. "Too busy to be tidy," she said apologetically, with no apology in her eyes. On the brown tile floor, old shopping bags stuffed with fabric squares of many colors and patterns, double wedding ring curves, and Texas star points crowded against boxes overfilled with brightly colored scraps. She wanted me to see the latest finished quilt, so I pulled a battered brown suitcase from under the bed and examined a carefully folded Dutch Boy destined for the newest great-grandson in Atlanta. Because a basket of bananas and apples took up the extra chair, I pushed aside her blue chenille bathrobe and sat on the bed with the new box of remnants, my feet just missing an open breadbox and its tangle of colors in loose and balled thread.

The telephone rang. She moved a pile of pieced squares and talked with a Texas grandson. I picked up the worn black Bible on the bedside table and read several pages of the copious notes in the margins, some written in a sure, tight hand, some in a loose scrawl. A short time later, two middle-aged women from the local homemakers' club stopped by to deliver a caramel cake and a summary of the latest news.

As they chatted, with one visitor on the bed next to me, leaning uncomfortably against the wall, and the other perched gingerly on the window sill, I noticed that the ever-growing stack of sewing boxes (a sameness of gifts) was now precariously propped against the bookcase. Letters, snapshots, and greeting cards were jammed between and into the books. Wandering Jew, trailing philodendron, and airplane plants overran the top of the bookcase, creating a cool green chaos in contrast with the color riot everywhere else. Although I could not see it, I knew that there was a sewing machine underneath the rolls of batting. There was a tiny black and white TV, I remembered, on the dresser under the mound of pale yellow lining. The other corner of the outside wall was all quilting frame, with Grandmama's chair jutting out into the middle of the room, blocking most of the walking space.

The two ladies said their goodbyes until next month. Taking with me clippings of philodendron, apples for the boys, the caramel cake ("Take it home! I don't need the sugar. Besides, it's Warren's favorite."), and a trash basket made from yellow egg cartons tied together with green knitting yarn, I stepped into the hall, contemplating the 104 quilts and 56 baby quilts made since she had decided to move here four years ago. As I left that busy, happy bustle behind me, I suddenly noticed the strong acrid smell of the nursing home.

Minnie E. Porter Moore, 1884-1975

Written in July, 1984

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Misadventures of Fuzz in Seale

Have you ever tried to list all the pets you have had? Do you have a favorite? For my daughter-in-law's birthday, I just selected a picture to post on Facebook that pushed me into these thought patterns. But I didn’t have to spend any time choosing a favorite.

While Dr. Tedder, our long-time vet, was tending to Psyche, our tiny rat terrier, my husband asked about a friendly, uncaged Airedale with a bad skin condition. His owner had dropped him at the clinic to be put down, but Dr. Tedder kept him as a clinic dog. The outcome of the conversation was a promise that he would treat the dog whenever the skin condition flared up—medicine and board, for free—if we would give this unusual dog a home. So we left with an extra dog. The AKC registration papers said his name was Fuzz Wuzz Doodle. And thus began the Misadventures of Fuzz in Seale.

An inveterate wanderer, Fuzz immediately investigated our small community and became well-known. We worried that he would become a pest and braced ourselves for the complaints. They never arrived.  His base of operations was our farm supply store in “downtown” Seale. He greeted our customers, who enjoyed his friendliness. Sometimes he shared night space with the two store cats, Rover and Spot; sometimes he slept on our back porch with the house cats, Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot (who turned out to be Lancelena). Over the years, a good many dogs with wiry black and red hair appeared in Seale. And we loved Fuzz. Everybody loved Fuzz. He had been trained to be a gentleman. He didn’t jump up on people; he didn’t bark unnecessarily; he was affectionate with people, other dogs, and cats. He was a perfect companion for our two boys as they roamed the woods and creeks.

He caused us trouble only twice. In the mid-70s, several area citizens decided to raise money to restore the abandoned old Russell County Courthouse building. Our biggest project was a large festival each year on the courthouse grounds with unusually good pork barbecue, prepared by a dozen or so men and a few of their wives, who would stay up all night tending to the meat and enjoying the fellowship around the fire. Of course, Fuzz became part of the group. Part of the night’s routine was eating barbecued chicken. During the second or third year of this event, Fuzz had apparently been pushed beyond endurance. He walked over to the grill, quickly helped himself to a chicken, and disappeared into the shadows. We weren’t there, but heard about his treachery the next day when we were informed that Fuzz would not be welcome the following year. From then on, he had to be locked up in the store every year on barbecue night.

The other time was more serious. We were totally unprepared. When we first brought Fuzz home, we were apprehensive about letting him wander in our backyard. Well, our back backyard, where my husband raised exhibition chickens. (I’ll have to explain that in another blog.) These chickens did not run free but were kept in breeding coops. The small pens were sturdy, but Fuzz was big. And strong. On his first trip to the chicken pens with Warren, he was carefully observed and supervised. We were delighted when he just nosed around, inspected everything with his usual curiosity, and then wandered away to check out something else. Over a period of time we stopped worrying about the chickens. But several years later, a good friend drove his pickup into our yard with Fuzz tied in the back. He started yelling as he jumped out of the car. In short, Fuzz had broken into his chicken house and killed over 20 of his chickens. We had to tie him up until a pen could be built. Gradually, we released the chastised dog back into the community. But he seemed different. He moved slower.

Dr. Tedder said Fuzz had developed unusually bad arthritis, all over. He spent most of the time on the back porch. He whimpered a lot. One Friday afternoon we found him under an old storage house out back. We could not get him to come out. He just howled. We didn’t talk about what had to be done. The next morning, Warren dug a hole, told me to get in the house and stay there, and crawled under the storage house. I heard a shot and a short time later saw the truck moving up the road. He did not return home until late that night. He never talked about that day. And I never asked.