As we prepare to celebrate America’s 241st birthday tomorrow, I find myself rummaging through a bunch of stray thoughts. In anticipation of some lazy, hazy, crazy days clustered around our mid-summer holiday, I have decided to share some of the loose ends that have accumulated in my mind.
~ I should add a footnote of sorts to an earlier article about showing my age: I showed my age – again. After my adventures with disappearing/reappearing Internet connections, it happened all over again. The replacement of a raggedy wire, chewed through by a mouse from the nearby field, finally solved the problem; and all is now well.
In the process, however, a technician on the phone asked me if I was in the same room with my modem. Puzzled by the question, I answered in the affirmative. I mean, I do all my online “stuff” on a desktop computer – located, well, on my desk – right next to the modem. It was not until several hours later that I realized most everyone else uses laptops and tablets in just about any room of the house. Duh!
~ I recently read an article about the demise of butternut trees. It seems that these trees from the walnut family are dying at a great rate from a fungus infection.
A huge, old butternut tree dominated the yard at our house on River Road, and plenty of its cylindrical nuts lay nestled in the grass. Oh, we had fun making necklaces from catalpa tree blossoms and ate fruit right off the cherry tree. But the spreading branches of the butternut tree provided lots of shade and supported our tire swing. That particular tree was cleared away some years after we moved in 1965. But I am still sad to think that these trees, along with elm and ash trees, have become vulnerable to disease.
~ In the course of my recent reading, I have run across a couple of interesting items. In one novel, set in the 1950’s, characters referred to “charcoaling” on a Saturday afternoon. I am accustomed to “grilling” and “barbecuing,” but I cannot say that I recall “charcoaling” – although the word is quite apt. At home, we just celebrated every warm-weather holiday with a “cookout.”
In another book, I received additional confirmation that my lifestyle is light years away from “the other half.” As I marveled at the trappings of wealth described in a fictionalized account of real-life New York socialites in the 50’s, a particular scene stood out: one upper-crust couple required that the morning newspaper be ironed. Now that was a new high – or low – for me. Ironing the newspaper for a more pleasurable reading experience has just never even occurred to me.
~ Last week an intriguing Jeopardy! clue led me straight to Google: “Margaret Mitchell originally called this character Pansy.” Somehow, I cannot imagine anyone other than Scarlett being feisty enough for Rhett Butler. Pansy O’Hara just does not seem to give off any kind of spunky vibe.
In a related article, I read that Little Orphan Annie began “life” as Little Orphan Otto; Charles Dickens tried out Small Sam, Little Larry, and Puny Pete before settling on Tiny Tim; Stella Strong and Helen Hale eventually became Nancy Drew. Who knew?
~ On August 21 a total solar eclipse will make landfall exclusively on American soil. Folks in a stretch of land 70 miles wide from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the eclipse in its totality, while we in Ohio will see it as a partial one. Interestingly enough, a spot between the towns of Princeton and Hopkinsville in Western Kentucky is where astronomers predict the point of “greatest eclipse” will occur.
~ Just days after the eclipse, most Champaign County school kids will head back to their classrooms. The math of it all: on approximately July 15th, we hit the halfway point of summer vacation. Although the school calendar no longer impacts my schedule, during my teaching days that mid-July juncture always had me yelling “Yikes!”
~ By the way, students at our former German partner school began summer vacation on June 22 and will head back to class on August 2. Yes, they have just six weeks free during the summer months; but autumn, Christmas, and Easter breaks last at least two weeks each. And that six-week summer pause: their English translation is “summer holidays.” I love the sound of that…
~ Finally, I saw a report on the evening news about Gary Marquardt, a 68-year-old Minnesotan who every day makes up for the fact that a bleeding ulcer kept him from being drafted during the Vietnam years.
Upset three years ago that a recording of Taps was played in place of a live performance at a military funeral, Gary bought a bugle, took lessons, and resolved to posthumously honor as many veterans as possible. He plays Taps at 100 military funerals every year.
He also plays the simple but powerful melody almost every day over the graves of veterans in cemeteries he seeks out. Alone, he speaks the veteran’s name aloud, raises his horn, and plays for that specific individual. And each day at sunset, he stands on his deck to add the strains of the iconic military music to the evening air. It is his prayer – and his continuing service to our country.
Happy Birthday to us all!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.