Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

November 21, 2016

From “Never Met a Stranger,” due out soon-ish

 

Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

Everybody has a secret soup bone.

Murphy had his Laws, Dr. Peter had his Peter Principle, and Pooch had The Great Soup bone.

Allow me to explain.

Years ago, I had this great dog named Pooch. I have not always been clever in the naming of my animal companions. In my own defense, I can tell you that he already had the name when I got him from a couple who couldn’t keep him anymore.

Pooch was friendly, happy without any good reason, and generally useless in a cheerful sort of way. He was a lot like most of my friends back in the day.

He was about one-third German Shepherd, one-third Weimaraner, and one-third marshmallow.

Like any other dog, Pooch’s ancestry went all the way back to the wolf. I think that’s pretty cool. I haven’t looked too far back on my own family tree for fear of what sort of termites and miscreants I might find.

Down inside, you see, Pooch saw himself as a Fearless Beast, a veritable Call-of-The-Wild wolf creature with fangs that would freeze the blood of a grizzly and a howl that would make a saint sweat.

Never mind that Pooch was a neurotic wreck. Never mind that he could let loose a marrow-curdling roar, but only if he knew the person at whom he was roaring.

I started thinking about Pooch today while talking with a friend about hunters. We were laughing about the not-really-very-funny fact that most of the deer hunters who die pursuing their sport do so from falling out of trees or from heart attacks.

Obviously, a person who spends 362 days of the year watching television or flying a desk is going have problems the other three days of the year when he tries to transform himself into Daniel Boone and go ridge-running after The Big One.

A friend and I were wondering why they do it, and I thought about Pooch.

I used to stop off on my way home from work and pick up a soup bone from a butcher I had befriended. Pooch loved to gnaw on the things and growl, and the cats looked at him with respect.

I guess I forgot to mention the cats. My wife and I had sixteen of them. We could not bear to give the kittens away and the females couldn’t bear to say “no,” and we had no money to have them spayed, so we had a lot. By the time the number got up to 24, I had left, but that’s another story, and it had nothing to do with the cats.

Anyway, Pooch would curl up in front of the fireplace and immediately six or eight kittens would curl up all over him. He would look at me as if to say “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, is it?”

One day, my butcher friend gave me a real treat; most of a cow’s backbone, with one rack of ribs still attached. The doggone thing was about four feet long.

Pooch was cross-eyed with delight.

He carried the gory thing around with him, neck muscles bulging, eyes popping with the effort, now and then uttering fierce little growls. I think he was trying to convince the cats and maybe himself that he’d killed this monstrous, ferocious beast.

The fantasy was pretty easy to put up with for the first few days. But after a while the hapless backbone began to take on a nasty greenish look, and the smell was astounding.

Still, Pooch would pick it up four or five times a day and strut past us, reeking to high heaven, bragging to us in dog-talk about what a fight this thing had put up.

Finally, one day when he was off scaring the wits out of a chipmunk, I took the backbone, which now resembled a prop out of the movie Night of The Living Dead, and dumped it in the Oconee River, which flowed by my back yard.

Pooch searched the woods for that disgusting thing for days. I think he suspected me. He probably thought I was jealous of his hunting prowess.

So, I sit around and shoot the breeze and tell hunting stories, though I can’t even remember the last time I shot a gun. I still like to walk in the woods, but I confess that the hills are steeper than they used to be, and the wind colder.

But sometimes, when the air turns crisp, I find myself staring wistfully at the gun racks in the sporting goods stores, and fight down a desire to go slogging through some of the world’s untamed places. But then I remember Pooch, who carried his fantasy around until it stank, and became a pain in the neck.

Still, I wonder if I could find a coonskin cap in my size.

 

 May, 1999

I know that when somebody is in a position of power, other folks are always trying to pull them off to the side to give them advice. I do not normally do this, myself, but the more I watch this mess in Kosovo, I want to pull Bill Clinton over and tell him about my old tomcat.

 

Tom could have been the poster-child for stray cats, which is what he was when he found himself adopted into my little family back in Mississippi.

 

After he settled in, he cleaned himself up pretty well, working at his armor-plating of mats until his long fur looked fairly presentable. He was chunky, and looked a little like a mohair cork.

 

Tom was a lot to contend with, about 20 pounds of bad attitude with claws. He as a warlike old cuss who would actually take off across the yard toward any dog he saw coming into his territory.

 

As far as I know, the only thing on this earth he was afraid of was Minsky.

 

Minsky was our little female cat. She was tiny, about half Tom’s size, and excessively cute, with long brindled black and orange fur, and a little three-inch stub of a tail, the result of a close call with a large neighborhood dog.

 

That stub is an important player in our story. It was sharp, and Minsky was in the habit of holding it straight up in the air when she was happy or in heat, which for Minsky usually meant one and the same thing.

 

In an effort to be delicate, let me just say that Minsky suffered from an excess of, er, romance when it came to cats of the opposite sex. In fact, when she went into heat, which seemed to happen every 20 minutes, she became so flirtatious she even embarrassed me.

 

In fact, it was Minsky’s affectionate nature that was Tom’s downfall.

 

One rainy winter night, my wife and I sat reading in bed, enjoying the heat and glow of the industrial-sized open gas heater, which stood against the wall opposite the foot of our brass bed. Minsky, the hussy, was lolling around all over the floor, making odd little cooing noises, and casting steamy glances across the room at Tom.

 

Tom, poor boy, was totally smitten. A passionate creature by nature, he approached matters of the heart with the same verve he used in attacking dogs and small children. Used much of the same technique, too, as I recall.

 

Tensely, he watched Minsky from where he curled on the new bedspread. I watched them both. Minsky was giving an Oscar-grade performance. She lolled. She mewed. She made suggestive remarks.

 

Tom grew more and more…interested.

 

Finally, he dropped to the floor, and crouched into a coiled stance, like a coiled spring ready to let go.

 

A few seconds later, after Minsky uttered one more invitation, that spring exploded into life. Tom launched himself across the little room, to land with all his weight and speed right on top of…that cruel, sharp, rigid little spike of a tail.

 

It was not the sensation he had been expecting.

 

Giving something between a grunt and a yowl, he catapulted himself backwards through the air, performing a lovely parabola from point A, (that would be Minsky,) to point B, (which would be the big gas heater,) which promptly set him on fire.

 

Now a ball of flaming fur, Tom launched himself in the other direction, landing on top of the bed, burning merrily.

 

My wife screamed. I screamed. None of us screamed as much as Tom.

 

Thinking I ought to do something immediately, even if it was wrong, I threw the new bedspread over Tom and wrapped him tight, extinguishing the flames. Tom, not happy with being smothered, proceeded to yowl and shred his way out of the bedspread.

 

My wife, not happy with what was happening to her new bedspread, started to yowl and beat on me with her Bible. Yowling a little myself, I took the whole sorry bundle out the back door and dumped Tom on the ground. He took off, still smoking, into the garden.

 

Minsky, meanwhile, was still looking for companionship. I picked her up and, resisting the urge to drop-kick her, set her down on the ground. She took off after Tom, whose smoke trail was easy to follow, even in the rain.

 

After a few days, things were back to what passed for normal in our household. There was yet another new bedspread on the brass bed. Minsky was calm and, we learned later, pregnant, papa unknown. Tom, however, was a changed cat.

 

Even after his fur grew back out, his lion-like bearing fell away whenever he came into the house. If Minsky came anywhere near him, he slinked around the edges of the room and went to go hide under the couch.

 

This is the cautionary tale I would tell Bill Clinton if I were to advise him about the situation in Kosovo No matter how small and tempting your target, remember there may be sharp and unpleasant surprises lurking in what looked like an easy victory.

 

Now, if he wanted to apply that advice to any other aspect of his life, that is his business.

Jesus

November 8, 2015

It had been an unusually bitter argument.

 

I don’t remember the topic, it was so long ago. We had been drifting apart for years, and we were almost to the end of that process.

 

We were polar opposites, and not in the way that made us more interesting to one another. I was a blue-collar hippy, she was a military officer’s kid. I took any kind of job I could get, she always managed to avoid working anywhere. She had become deeply religious suspiciously quickly after we got together, I wavered between the occult, agnosticism, and downright atheism. She wanted kids. I did not.

 

Post argument, I was lying on my belly on the brass double bed, fuming and staring at the chipped plaster wall.

 

She sat upright, pillows piled behind her, reading her Bible.

 

As I lay there mired in that acidic anger, she suddenly gasped out loud.

 

I switched immediately to protective mode. It just works that way.

 

“What is it, what’s wrong?” I asked.

 

It’s him, she said.

 

“Him who?” I asked, honestly puzzled.

 

“Jesus,” she said, in an ecstatic voice.

 

I lay silent for a while. Then:

 

“Where?”

 

He is standing at the foot of the bed, she explained.

 

By now, I am studying the pale blue walls with great attention. As I saw it, there were only two possible options.

 

One: There was nothing at the foot of the bed but air, and my significant other was nuts.

 

Two: Jesus was standing at the foot of my brass bed and I was in deep doo-doo.

 

It was quite the quandary.

 

I didn’t want to know the answer, to be honest.

 

Understand, that when I am nervous I have a tendency to say the first wisecrack that comes to mind. My knee-jerk reaction is to defuse the situation and get everybody to relax.

 

It really never works, but I do it anyway.

 

Being an atheist who has just been told that the Son of God is standing at the foot of the bed is probably the very definition of a nervous situation.

 

So, I said what could have been the worst possible thing ever.

 

DO YOU TWO WANT TO BE ALONE?

 

I have to remark that her command of the saltier parts of the English vocabulary was stellar for a churchy girl.

 

She excoriated me with little grace but a whole lot of enthusiasm. I mean back seven generations and all the way out to my 3rd cousins, whoever they are.

 

And, for the record, Jesus was not standing at the foot of the bed. But I slept on the couch that night anyway.

August 12, 2014

By T.W. Burger

I found it, naturally, while looking for something entirely different.

 

In a box on a bottom shelf in my office, jammed in with some other mementos, was my old Mr. Trash hat.

 

It was filthy.

 

Of course, it was filthy when I put it away, sometime back in the early 1980s.

 

The grime is easy to explain. Mr. Trash was a “refuse removal business,” which most of us would still call “garbage company.” I was the field manager, though I’m not sure I had any formal title. I ran the crews. We started out with five trucks. I’m not saying the trucks were worn out, but their continued presence on the road had to be due to divine intervention. This was 1981 or ’82, and one of trucks was a Dodge. Dodge stopped making trucks any bigger than pickups in 1968.

 

I was in management in about the same way a staff sergeant is an officer, i.e., not much. Oh, I had a desk in the office and a pager (this was way before cell phones) and a pickup truck. But I also ran the crews and picked up garbage, usually by swinging by the homes of customers who had been missed by my crews.

Mr. Trash

Mr. Trash

Garbage workers never catch a break. Even today, I believe, people look down their noses at them, no pun intended. Which is a shame, because it’s not easy work, and if you don’t think their work matters, let your garbage men go on strike for a couple of weeks. In summer. We had a strike in Atlanta when I was in my 20s, I think. We lived 70 miles away and used to joke that we could smell it.

 

One clever fellow in the city figured out how to get rid of his own trash. He would put the bags in a box and gift-wrap the box. Then he would drive into the city and park his car for a while on a side street and go for coffee, leaving his windows open. When he got back, et voila’, the garbage was gone.

 

Anyway, it was a challenge balancing my crews and the company owner, who, I suspect, had never before worked with anybody who didn’t wear a coat and tie.

 

For example, I had prepared color-coded maps of the county for each workday, with different color on the map for each crew. The boss went to the trouble and expense of having color copies made for each of the drivers. He presented each man with the maps. The drivers looked a little baffled, but dutifully stored the maps in the cabs of their trucks and drove off to the day’s work.

 

“They didn’t look very happy,” Boss Man said. “Well,” I replied, “only one of the drivers can read. They know their routes from memory. Roger can’t even read house numbers, but he’s got a tremendous memory, when he’s sober.”

 

One of my crew was attacked by a pit-bull whose owner had failed to secure it in its doghouse. Larry heard a noise and turned to see this animal snarling and heading toward him like a surface-to-Larry missile. The dog launched into the air. Larry grabbed a one-gallon pickle jar from the trash can and killed it with one blow. I arrived about 10 minutes later to find the homeowner screaming about lawsuits and such, and berating Larry with all sorts of insults. I interrupted to point out that if I had just seen a man kill my pit-bull with his bare hands, I might be a little more circumspect in the way addressed him.

 

So, after about a year of similar adventures, Mr. Trash and I parted company. The hat went into storage with hats from other jobs. And yes, it’s smudged and smeared by various substances whose origins I don’t care to think about much. I can remember it being so soaked that sweat dripped off the hat’s bill. I wore it for awhile the day I found it, and I do believe I could still smell garbage.

 

Still, Sue asked me if I would like her to put it in the wash. She has a sort of hat-shaped cage thing she can clip onto it so it won’t lose its shape.

 

I think it’s a girl thing. Wash my Mr. Trash hat?

 

No way.

 

It’s an historical artifact.

 

 

 

 

Over dinner with friends tonight, I was asked to post this. So, here it is.

Well, this Thursday is the big day. Turkey day. I used to have the figures handy that told how many turkeys die to make Thanksgiving possible, but I’ve lost them.

It’s a lot.

Not so long ago, things were a lot simpler. A lot of the people I knew forswore their store-bought birds and got a live bird from a farmer.

Trouble is, too many of the folks who gave this “old-fashioned” method a try were young people from the ‘burbs. Their experience with “nature” was getting draft­ ed by their parents to help fight the war on crabgrass.

My neighbors at a little mobile home park in Georgia are a case in point.

The couple, let’s call them Tom and Tif­ fany, were both raised in one of those towns squeezed like putty at the seams where New York and New Jersey are glued together.

They grew up in some development named after the trees that had been cut down to build it.

Tom was a sleepy, even lethargic sort of guy. It was hard to tell if he was awake or sleepwalking.

Tiffany was, well, perky, given to hare­ brained ideas and sudden enthusiasms.

Tom was at the university, studying to be a biologist. Tiffany worked somewhere as a secretary.

The way it was told to me, one Thanks­ giving, Tiffany decided she would surprise Tom with a turkey.

She purchased a big hen from a farmer who swore on a stack of Greenpeace pam­ phlets that he had raised the thing from a poult and had never fed it anything he could not pronounce.

Back at home, Tiffany, raised on painless supermarket turkeys, could not bring her­ self to apply the firewood axe to the bird’s neck. The brief stay of execution ended, however, when Tiffany found Tom’s supply of chloroform.

She put the turkey to sleep.

Triumphant and little nauseated, Tiffany got the big hen plucked after a fashion, but the idea of trimming off the head and feet was beyond her sensibilities, not to men­ tion the idea of moving all the turkey’s in­ side stuff to the outside.

So, into the fridge went the nude bird, awaiting the arrival of Tom. Remember, the turkey was to be a surprise for Tom.

Tiffany’s unflappable husband came home in the late afternoon, tired, burdened by thick books and reeking of formalde­ hyde. Tiffany told him she had a surprise for him in the refrigerator.

Tom opened the door.

The little light came on.

The turkey woke up.

Naked. In pain.

And really, really ticked off.

With a hellish gobble, she exploded out from among the beansprouts and leftover chili, straight at Tom. The now-streamlined and furious bird dug its claws into Tom’s sweater and began pecking and biting him on the face and arms.

Tom, as intended, was surprised. And more lively than usual.

Still screaming, the turkey dropped Tom and charged into Tiffany, knocking her backward, breaking the glass front of her china cabinet.

The bird bashed the portable TV off its stand, knocked a life-size poster of Elvis the King from the walls before it flapped through the still-open trailer door. A strange, pale apparition in the fading light, the turkey fled gobbling fiercely into the depths of the trailer park.

The next day, Thanksgiving, I dined on a properly quiet and immobile turkey with my mother and brother. Tom and Tiffany went out for dinner at a local restaurant that featured a large and placid salad bar.

The attack turkey, I found out later, met its fate at the hands of a little old lady down the street who had never heard of “Mother Earth News,” but who knew a dinner on the run when she saw one.

OK, this is from back in 2006. I haven’t posted anything in a while, for which I apologize. This one was published in Flagpole, and entertainment and politics weekly newspaper in Athens, Ga., with an excellent hand-drawn illustration that I have on my backup drive and haven’t retrieved yet.

Anyway, a friend saw something on facebook that reminded her of this story, so here it is:

I read recently about a former Marine who was attacked by four armed thugs – two of whom had guns – as he walked home from his job at an Atlanta restaurant.

Thomas Autry, who is 36, was jumped as he was walking home from work. He called for help and pulled a knife out of his backpack, and got busy. The upshot: One attacker dead, one in critical condition, and two in custody.

Only a Marine would take a knife to a gunfight and walk away the victor.

Police, sensibly enough, did not charge Autry. Of course, Atlanta is the South, where I grew up, and, for good or ill, the South has always viewed weapons of any kind as educational tools and instruments of attitude adjustment.

I guess every guy dreams about having his own “John Wayne Moment.” I had one once. There is a song that says “life is different than it is in your dreams.”

My John Wayne Moment came late one summer in the late 1960s. My wife and I lived in a little wooden farm house on Turkeyfoot Road in Clarke County, Ga… The house sat back in a clearing in thick pine woods, at the end of a long dirt driveway.

We were hippies, sort of, and the house was small and isolated, but had most of the modern amenities. Well, there was an outhouse that you had to chase the copperheads out of when you needed to go, and the electricity was limited to a single light bulb hanging from the center of each of the rooms. But it did have running water, though no water heater and we had to bathe in a washtub on the front porch.

Still, it was $50 a month and we liked it. Until the strange car started showing up.

It was an old white Ford Falcon station wagon, not in good repair. There were always three or four guys in it. The car would drive to the edge of the clearing, stop, and just sit there, idling.

The men just sat there, watching. I approached them the first time, thinking they might be lost. They backed up and left. They came back several times over the next few weeks. I didn’t like the way they looked at us, especially the way they looked at Mary. They always had beer.

We did not have a telephone.

After about the third visit from the Falcon, I drove to my parent’s house and dug out my old Stevens .22 automatic rifle and a couple boxes of cartridges.

And a good thing, too.

In the small hours of the next day, the Falcon was back. This time, it drove right up into the yard. A man got out of the front passenger side, and strode right up on the porch. He walked right past the bedroom window. In the moonlight, I could see he had a knife.

It was hot, so the door was open, the screen latched. I heard him cut through the screen.

I don’t remember this part, but Mary said I rose up off the mattress, cursing and praying in the same breath, and, scooping up the rifle, ran toward the porch.

I was a good shot, back then. My buddies and I used to hunt rabbits with .22’s. This was a fat man in a white shirt on a moonlit night. I figured he was mine.

The man jumped off the porch and ran toward the far side of the clearing. I ran out into the yard, raised the rifle, and fired all 15 rounds at him.

At that point, I remembered the Falcon wagon and the fat man’s three friends. The car was about 10 feet to my left.

This was my John Wayne Moment. One bad guy, I thought, perforated in the piney woods. Three drunk bad guys and a ton or so of steel to my left.

And me, long hair sticking straight out every which way, wearing nothing but a St. Christopher medal, a Timex watch, and an empty rifle. Not even a cowboy hat.

It was a moment, all right. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more naked.

I don’t know how long we all stood or sat there, respectively. Seemed like a long time to me, but I didn’t check the Timex. The driver of the Falcon threw the battered old heap into reverse and tore down the driveway without bothering to turn around. I guess he didn’t realize my gun was empty.

Suddenly, there I was, all alone, under the moon in the piney woods, standing barefoot in the red clay dust, wondering if I had made the whole thing up. I mean, it was the 60s, after all.

I think Mary came and got me back into the house. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I did not sleep.

Nothing ever came of it, except the white car stopped coming around. I never called the Sheriff to report the event. The guy was, after all, running away from my house, so if I had hit him, I would have been the one going to jail.

I got a bunch of friends to come over and walk around looking for a fat guy with a lot of holes in him, but we never found him. I finally had to admit that I was so angry and afraid that all of my shots had gone wild. I have to say, though, that I never saw a fat man move so fast.

© 2006 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

PS: Do you know anybody else who might like to receive “Burger to Go?” Send me their email address and I’ll put it on the list. Thanks!

Note: This column appeared in the March 20, 2010, edition of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

Known for his coon skin cap, Fess Parker as Davy Crockett was an idol to many young baby boomers.

When I opened up the Web site for my hometown newspaper, out of the corner of my eye I saw a photo of Fess Parker in the far left column, the one reserved for the obituaries of famous or infamous people. I hesitated before I would let myself look.

Davy Crockett was dead.

“LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Fess Parker, who became every baby boomer’s idol in the 1950s and launched a craze for coonskin caps as television’s Davy Crockett, died Thursday of natural causes. He was 85.”

He got me drunk once. Well, a little tipsy. More on that in a minute.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember that tall, lanky figure dressed up in fringed buckskin, fighting his way across the mythic American frontier of the first half of the 19th century, wrestling bears, fighting or befriending Indians and besting bad guys.

OK, it was the frontier as imagined by Walt Disney, which had little relationship to reality, but never mind. Disney was all about imagination, and he gave us somebody bigger and better than real life — a hero, a straight-shooter (literally and figuratively) and a guy we all wanted to be.

Parker later sort of reprised his role as Crockett in a TV series about Daniel Boone, playing the title role and, for all appearances, wearing the same suit, expression and personality.

Back in the spring of 1997, I was in the Santa Barbara area on vacation with Sue. Her dad had worked for Disney for a long time and during an occasion where he and Parker were receiving Disney Legend awards, Parker had said if we ever got up his way, to stop in and visit his winery.

A few years later, we did. We went in, sent a message to the offices upstairs, and went to look around in the gift shop.

“He’s not going to come, you know,” I told her. “Somebody will come down and say Mr. Parker is tied up, but they will be happy to give us a tour.”

A few minutes later, I’m poking around wondering if I could live with myself if I bought a Fess Parker golf shirt, because I don’t golf, when a voice, THAT voice, called out Sue’s name as a question.

Sue, Fess Parker, and me, slightly inebriated.

I turned, and there stood Davy Crockett.

He looked about nine feet tall, with a mop of white hair, a cotton shirt and blue jeans. Solemnly, I shook his hand and introduced myself. I am a newspaper reporter. I have interviewed my share of famous and notorious people. I am cool.

In my head, though, a small blond boy inclined to chubbiness and wearing a coonskin cap charged forward to the front of my mind and squealed “It’s DAVY CROCKETT!”

It went pretty much like that all day.

It was like hanging around with an old friend. Part of that, for me, was because I had known him forever, had been him, in important ways, wearing my coonskin cap and slaying swarms of bad guys in scores of backyard battles.

He invited us to a private wine tasting. My memory is foggy, but it was from nine to a dozen wines. He was giving me a lesson in why wine lists use words like “earthy” and “woody” to describe background flavors in various wines. By the end of the tasting, I was pretty buzzed.

He piled us into his enormous old Mercedes sedan and hauled us into the village of Los Olivos for lunch.

On the way, he told a story about little Fess riding his dad’s mule into nearby Fort Worth. The animal got into the middle of an intersection and decided he had had enough traveling for one day, and simply stopped. Parker said his father had to come to town to jump-start the beast.

All the while, though I remained outwardly calm, that dumb kid in the coonskin cap kept running around in my head, issuing war whoops and being obstreperous.
Finally, I told him about that little hellion stomping around in my imagination.
“Don’t worry,” he said, with that lopsided grin, “I get that a lot.”

I’ll bet he did. Goodbye, Davy.

As many of you already know, I live in the Gettysburg area. My house sits about five miles south of the official battlefield park, scene of the famous July 1-3, 1863 fight that saw the high-water mark of the Confederacy, and the much-ballyhooed turning point of the American Civil War.

It was also a portent of great wealth for the Asian manufacturers of little toy rifles and swords with which the darling children and grandchildren of tourists pretend jolly mayhem on one another.

Of course, the battle took up a lot more space than just the 6,000-acre park. The road on which I live, for example, was the site of an encampment of troops serving under Union Gen. Abner Doubleday, who did not, legends to the contrary, invent baseball.

I am not enough of a student of history to know what Abner did in the battle, but according to a neighbor who pokes around the area with a metal detector, his troops apparently gave up sleep for the evening, preferring rather to spend their time peppering the ground with bullets, buckles, and buttons for the benefit of future relic hunters.

We get between 1.5 and 2 million tourists every year. It makes us really cagey about finding ways around town via alleys and back roads so we have a lower risk of getting behind one of our famous double-decker tour buses or some septuagenarian operating a 40-foot motor home while trying to read battlefield markers without actually stopping.

The great thing about all those tourists is that they bring their wallets with them, and when they leave, said wallets are usually a good bit lighter.

This is a good thing.

The bad thing is that we have to deal with tourists for all but the coldest months of the year. There has been, I believe, some intense research into finding a way for the tourists to simply mail their money to us, or transmit it through PayPal, but all the details haven’t been ironed out yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

These thoughts reasserted themselves recently as I sat in one of the restaurants on the tourist strip, writing in my journal and enjoying some ice cream and coffee.

Well, trying to.

Tourist season was already past its peak. Halloween was behind us, so the legions of live people looking for dead people on the battlefield were pretty well gone off to haunt other places.

Still, and mysteriously, one end of the restaurant was filled with a platoon of Confederate re-enactors in full regalia. Fortunately, they weren’t hard-core, that segment of the re-enactor universe who never wash their uniforms, out of deference to historical and olfactory exactitude, and who as a result smell like road-kill.

No, this was generally speaking a bunch of good-ole boys having a grand time with their lady friends over a hearty meal of chicken strips and bluish-ice cream sundaes. Better than hard-tack, you betcha.

They were a rowdy lot, but none more so than one fellow at the nearest table, who spoke with great animation and volume about his latest adventures in the sphere of medicine.

He sat facing me at an angle. Directly across from him, and facing away from me, was the woman who seemed to be with him. She was a substantial lass, with long, lustrous black hair and a deep and abiding passion for fried food, judging from her plate and by her, um, beamishness.

Now, I am the last person to pronounce judgment on a person’s girth, being horizontally gifted in my own right, or their choices in how they garb themselves. My favorite leisure time clothing is a sturdy set of bib overalls and bare feet, so who am I to talk?

Even so, I like to think that if I had the sort of back porch possessed by that young lady, hip-huggers might very well be the very last thing on my list of things to wear out in public.

“Hip-huggers” is perhaps not an accurate description, as these seemed more to be holding on by their fingernails.

The problem was exacerbated by a T-shirt whose reach was far from adequate.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember just how white some white people can be.

I do believe my corner of the room was a lot brighter than it otherwise might be, for all the light being reflected my way. I felt that I had suddenly found myself in the spotlight. I would have risen and given an acceptance speech if I could have gotten a word in edgewise.

He never stopped talking. He was too loud to ignore. And the subject seemed to change every other sentence or two.

It wasn’t so bad, merely annoying, until he started talking about his colonoscopy, his dramatic re-telling of the preparatory arrangements involved, the methodologies employed in achieving the exam, and the results discovered in the process.

By the time he got to the end of the recitation and confessed that his doctor had also discovered a mother lode of hemorrhoids, (“Which I already knew,” he added), I don’t believe anyone on the north side of the Steinwehr Ave. Friendly’s had the least bit of sympathy for him.

His friends either ignored him, or pored over the brochures and notices on the bulletin board by the register…

I, fuming that my chance to concentrate on my journal-writing had been thoroughly smashed, also admitted that if I hadn’t chosen a large serving of super-chocolate fudge ice-cream, I might have gotten through the ordeal with a bit less discomfort.

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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

I’ve mentioned fairly often that my own religious beliefs don’t entail a belief in an actual conscious entity out there that is looking out for me or, worse, looking for me.

But I was raised in that tradition, for sure. You know, the one where your parents and the other vast beings that rumbled and boomed way up there over your head, warning that this or that bad thing was going to happen to you if you did or didn’t do this or that.

It was a tradition that taught you that failing to dress up properly for church, or not going at all, showed a disdain for God, and he was gonna getcha for that. And mercy on the pore chile that fell asleep while the preacher droned on and on, though it seemed to be OK for the older members of the congregation to do.

It’s all about ignorance and superstition, as far as I’m concerned, though I have often been moved how faith can get people through some really awful times. I guess you could say I believe in faith, but not so much in the object of that faith.

I was reminded of my own programming in that regard the other day in the newsroom, when the librarians were throwing out a lot of old books, including, to my sorrow, a whole set of encyclopedias. I spent a lot of happy hours as a kid thumbing through our set of Colliers, stumbling upon one wonder after another.

One of the books in the scrap bin was a Bible. I am, as I said, an athiest, an admirer of Dawkins and Hitchins, and of Sam Harris. And yet, seeing the Bible in the trash bothered me, I mean “bothered” as in slightly afraid that bad things would happen because we threw away a Bible. It was an enlightening experience.

Maybe I should go find my copy of Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Panda’s Thumb” and throw it away, just to make up for it.

Nah. Not happening.

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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

I never could figure out if the mouse butts were a gift or a punishment.

I’d come home in the wee hours and hunker through the wintery air, open the trailer door, and there they’d be, from one to as many as 10, little hineys poking up out of the dog-vomit-green shag carpet, nothing left of the little Mickeys but hindquarters and stiff little tails, pointing they-went-thataway every whichaway.

And there would be Phyllis, curled up contentedly in my late Aunt Audrene’s former favorite overstuffed chair, staring at me the way that cats stare at their humans.

I never did figure out if my reactions were the right ones. I’d pluck the miserable little mementoes out of the shag and toss them out the back door, by way of warning to future mice “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

Apparently, none of the mice had read “Divine Comedy,” because they kept coming.

Phyllis took a long time to adjust to the move from the suburbs of the Georgia university town to a trailer on the edge of a cornfield in the wilds of Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure if the furry little fannies were a snub for disrupting her life or a grateful sharing of the bounty.

Phyllis Killer was my cat for 17 years all together. Sleek, quick, black and white, with a white blaze shaped like Italy across her nose. She was a one-man cat, and didn’t cotton to anybody else, or any other cats.

In her youth, when I still let her roam outside, she rarely came home without some near-dead critter hanging from her teeth. This she would drop in the middle of the floor and watch while I caught and disposed of it. I think she was attempting to train me to hunt. She always looked vaguely disappointed.

The source of the mice was no secret. It was a cold winter, colder than most. The cornfield, a regular field mouse metropolis, came up to within 20 feet of the trailer, which was a lot warmer than the iron ground of the field. The mice found their way in, attracted to the warmth of the wood stove and gas furnace and, to be honest, my less-than-immaculate kitchen houskeeping skills.

But Phyllis was good at her job. Typically, she ate her prey from the head back to the hams and then, for reasons known only to her, stuck them on the carpet.

Typically, after a day at work, I’d find one or two of them. Once away for a week, I returned to find the food I’d left for her mostly gone and a grim forest of wiry little tails in the coleslaw-colored carpet.

And Phyllis, of course, curled in her chair, watching my reaction.

I think she had finally given up on training me to hunt. The mouse butts were handouts.
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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/