This Poet's Corner


Welcome-20 Pages in All !Family-FriendsFamily-Friends-AFamily-Friends-BMD/VA-AMD/VA-Bpg. 7pg. 8pg. 9pg. 10pg. 11pg. 12pg. 13pg. 14pg. 15Prose, Short Sales, Reviews, etc.More Prose, Short Stories, etc.More Prose...ProseSnippets Of Prose...Photographs and Digital Pictures

This Poet's Corner


The Importance of Being a Good Shot!


Back on one of those Christmas days touching close to or on the middle Christmases of the last century, I and my stalwart, older cousin, Billie Jim were armed with pea-shooters and pockets full of peas. Our straw-like weapons were common then, when children were free to make mistakes and needed to learn to survive upon their own. We had been warned that like our sling shots and our pellet guns these were just little more than mere toys and a little less than the real guns our fathers carried on racks in the backs of their pickup trucks. David did not bring Goliath down simply.

We were careful of our quarries, and there was plenty of game outside in the snow, but when inside we needed something convenient to shoot and almost always miss- that being the nature of these guns.

Now, my grandparents, being very poor, and it being the custom besides, had a cedar in place of a pine tree to decorate the largest room of the sprawling former schoolhouse. 

This, she set to do with boxes of decorations she brought out yearly for this ritual. My grandmother loved these funny things and stuffed the tight branches as best as these cedars would allow with so many glass balls, cotton thingies, and other eye-candy, it was a wonder it didn't tip o'er! How were two boys armed as e were to not see the opportunity? We were loved and not expected to be too good. That was not the way my folk raised their male offspring. Little girls had to be perfect but so much more was expected of us boys.

Grammy had bestowed that rare and special favor on us- her time, which given the heaviness of her life’s burdens, she bestowed from love at the inconvenience of labor. She had shown us proudly her favorite, egg shaped, glass ornament; a bright red thing called a kugel. It was her most favored as it had been her mother’s. Billie Jim and I stood there each of us on either side of her with the pea shooters tucked in the back pockets of our dungarees, and we paid due reverence to this one special glass thing. We could not fail though to not notice the flock of lesser glass birds, balls, and other things nestled there in those limbs. I’m not sure who got the idea first. I imagine we both still assume that guilt.

We were alone soon enough with no malice in our little hearts save a felled bit of glass or two aims far and away from Grammy’s special prize. We even agreed it would be deemed “off season” on this family trophy. Perched in our overstuffed chairs on the opposite side of the room we were confident of our shots and sure enough after a pocket or so of peas had pinged one or two laughing at the sound of the breaking glass. We were very keen and feeling very right cowboys when it happened. The odds even today seem so unfair. One of our shots went as if to break a heart and it certainly hit ours hard. We examined our crime and did what little boys do. We carefully turned the ball around to conceal the hole and promptly pretended to forget although we put our shooters away for other play.

I do not know what ever happened or the pain of it. I only know these many years later I still carry some lessons. I learned the power of tradition, the dangers of misalliances, and the importance of being a good shot!

© 2008 by E.D. Ridgell

Creative Commons License 




Up and Down the Road

One of my earliest memories was to be nestled upon his lap guiding the Studebaker ‘up the road’. I must have been all of three, and I can even place the exact spot upon the road, the road he will soon travel for a last time—dead at eighty four. It was in those lawless days, those one lane days when belts did nothing more that hold pants up or drop whiskey down. My uncle was almost always ‘up the road’ for there were two places only then, on that peninsular, water-bound refuge of my youth, bounded on one side by the Potomac and the other by the Chesapeake- home more or less comprising a few square miles of Point Lookout, and that other place, far away and as alien to me as the moon that the adults referred to as ‘up the road’.
When Uncle Bud dubbed ‘The Judge’ was down the road and at home it was always memorable in both little and big ways—all the ways, simply because it was so unusual. The summers seemed to lumber along leaving too few vivid recollections of ‘The Judge’ at home.
There was that spell of time with the funny monkey, the monkey grinder kind of monkey; nervous, and always climbing about, with big rolling, suspicious eyes. ‘The Judge’ appeared one afternoon with it upon his back. He brought this creature home from ‘up the road’. This novelty soon melted away though into a menagerie of no less than six or seven collies, birds of all kinds, and those wild cats that lived under the house of my grandmother’s in their parallel universe. We had two homes on the point then before the dark time when the state, our state, pushed us off the tip of the Point to build a state park and ravage memory. Only the lighthouse remains today and one house, the Judge’s house for the use of the park ranger.
I only remember making my uncle mad the one time, and I only knew of this fact years later when my aunt let me know how angry he had been. It was the pigs you see; three, I think there were; in that sty I turned to quick sand one day. Well, I was bent upon perfect pigs and must have been so turned I decided to water down their sty; to make them clean. It didn’t seem right that they should always be dirty. I was around five years old and I had discovered the hose. I liked the hose whether the pigs did or not and the vegetable garden next to it that I liked to help water. Well it seems I had left that hose to run in the sty for the better part of a whole hot St. Mary’s County day distracted by who knows what, and it was Bud who came upon them later in the night. They must have run dry of squeals hours before. My aunt had trouble telling me of this some decades later as she was laughing so hard at the thought of how you dry out a sty with three near drowned pigs. He never said a word to me of it, but I suspect it had sent him back ‘up the road’ for the better part of the remainder of that night and as usual to the wee and childless hours of the morning. I did not hear him come in but we rarely did.
My uncle would be the last to leave whatever bar would be the last of the night, and slowly make his way back down the single lane of a narrow two to us and home. Many men on the Point in fairness thou spent long days and longer nights ‘up the road’ or out on the bay. The peninsula was a world of women and children especially by day. Well, I learned years ago that Bud was almost always the last to leave or if you must say it, “close the bar” not so much for the drink as for the dire necessity felt by his buddies to beat him to ‘the road’. To find oneself behind my Uncle Bud, going as slow as he did weaving home in thrice the time it would for a less diligent drunk, was to invite that much more trouble from a suspicious wife. and so it was the custom for everyone else to start to leave ten minutes before closing lest they end up held up behind ‘The Judge’ on his way ‘down the road’.
I don’t recall how long he actually was a traffic court judge, elected by so many acquaintances and connections to the County’s principal sport, bar hopping with buddies, but I do remember it was a convenient reign. I’ll have you know too that there was nothing irregular in it, not to the times anyway, as Uncle Bud never got so much as one ticket or landed in one ditch like so many others leaving ten minutes before. It is this that probably got him elected; this, and the fairness of the man. The place was all about comfortable and familiar names the greater part of the population of graveyards I now visit.
I never remember any of the men of my family actually drunk ‘cept Dad and him only periodically. He took safety from it as best he could at sea for months at a time and only went ‘up the road’ so to speak for a week or two when in port—one week to drink and the other in some place that made it all better again. My uncle and his brother, my father, were not the same kind you see. My grandmother, aunts, and my very own mother were all of one in their constant attendance upon these doings and to making sure the children knew nothing of it. Indeed we did not, not in the early days. These were the days of sand, sun, swimming and seafood all under the protection of women who were sober yet besotted in their sobriety.
Now I wait to go with a sure telephone call, south into the bottom of the state of my Maryland on the left side of the bay into territory still magical and mysterious for me to attend the funeral of this good man and give my support to a family; the very roots of this early state. He came directly from the six original families to the ‘Islands of the Bay’. His ancestors came from Cornwall, in England and settled the whole of both sides of the lower Bay and islands in between. Most all on the islands anyway are still descendants of these early settlers taking their turns ‘fore being lain back down into the soggy ground that they call home. Everything is supposed to sink like Henderson eventually but we don’t speak of that and have too much faith to believe it.
I could relate a dozen facts or stories like the few at hand, but I shall end with one not so funny perhaps, but it bespeaks the man. Back in seventy eight at the funeral of my father, through my own grief, I could see how Bud was affected. Oh it was not just a sad event, the funeral. It was as funerals usually are in my family held ‘up the road’ in St. Marys City, and it was as much comedy as tragedy to even out and temper grief and leave a properly balanced tribute. I remember how shocked I was when the train of our mismatched cars hooked to Buds Cadillac pulled into the pea gravel drive of Trinity Episcopal Church in our state’s beautiful First Capitol at the numbers of people who waited there to pay a last tribute to a father I did not know was so valued by so many-- I had been too close to see the full measure of him. It will be the same for ‘The Judge’. I have come to expect it now. The church then was too small as it will be again for this turn. Then, my poor uncle had gone quite liquid in more than tears, and the drink in combination with some of Dad’s left over pills had lifted Bud rather too High Church for the occasion. My aunt who I will simply describe as magic manifested in human form had already been seated when Bud made his way down the aisle and taken his seat only to turn and address the small assembly with six words or so of what I think was not Shakespeare! It all happened so quickly I could not quite catch it, but I do know that my aunt and I had an awful time containing ourselves through this solemn ceremony. Grief will come forth in giggles if it is triggered, and my uncle had fired away a volley totally out of character all of his own to fully match the twenty one gun salute to follow the funeral. Hundreds had been thoroughly entertained. My poor uncle’s daughter was beside herself keeping up the custom of being besotted in sobriety, and when all was done and they had handed me the flag and all these people were leaving, there was Bud sitting atop an ancient stone-- he grown as heavy now as it, with the weight I knew of sorrow. He was as silent and near as dead as the one whose stone he sat upon when it came to that. Suddenly, in a loud and irate voice, his daughter, my good cousin, suddenly let it be known to anyone still around that in her opinion, “they have put the wrong one in the ground”!
Well, so you will not think us too irreverent and without any good sensibilities, let me say that, once ‘The Judge’ found his ground again, he has stayed grounded these three decades since. I think that a good tribute to his brother and an even better measure of him. Do not judge a man for a disease. It is neither fair nor accurate. Judge him rather for his honors won in the only right war of the last century, his distinguished naval career, his thirty years played out, too, ‘up the road’ turning diligent metal for test planes so accurate and steady-handed that today a machine must take his place. And finally judge ‘the Judge’ for the number of cars in the train and even more for the number that, as is the custom, pulled to the side of the now two lane road as we passed--traffic stopped coming the other way, forgetting hurry and pausing, lights on, in a light way of respect.
Somewhere today and into tonight there are plans being made. Who will bear the pall? Has someone gotten Lillian to come and stuff the ham? In what hall will we cram them all, Legionnaires and Masons who are all about their wardrobes, and the preparation of guns and flags-- the flowers of men? Those of us far away so many in numbers are making plans to come soon, as do I. I’m going back. I grieve. I’m going ‘down the road’ to stand ‘side my magical aunt amidst a family, American and in no small measure proud Marylanders. I am going to where the Potomac and the Chesapeake collide. I am going home.
© 2007 by E.D. Ridgell
Creative Commons License


The Upper Left Hand Corner

Take a moment if you will to recall the coal eaters, those iron trains of past, puffing their white billows of smoke high into the sky from their tall, black stacks. Picture one under a blue-black, moonlit night as it raced forward, clickety clack, a search light leading its way, and you have imbedded in my mind’s eye a memory from my earliest childhood.
Only a few years old, wide-eyed and watchful, I remember that I was told I was on an adventure, only what exactly an adventure was I did not know. I was sure though I was not in any place near where I called home. I had come a long way, on a silver plane that I recall was called the Super G, a new, very popular, American flyer- not the train, no, but an airplane. My mother brought me to visit hers: a woman I was supposed to call grandmother although I’d already been given one of those. Of the airplane ride in the sky, I most remember clouds pillowed everywhere as I stared from out one of the tiny, silver-lined windows. Who would not notice clouds when first seen from train or plane? I believe this must have been the beginning of my love affair with clouds.
The train sped, open handed, through the blue-black night and I remember looking out of a large, thick paned window at a site I knew even then was something special and to be remembered. Rising from a clickety clackered sleep with sleepy eyes, I beheld a vista of shimmering snow, under the blue black sky be-speckled with faint stars, a Christmas garden of marshmallow, laden trees. Everything was brightly spotlighted by a fulsome moon. Out there, close but, far enough to feel safe, out along a horizon, moved a herd of what I’m certain I thought then were reindeer and today I know were a thousand or more caribou. They were moving together, half of them up and half of them below a horizontal ledge, along an irregular bluish, white line dividing land and sky, leaping up and down this low bluff as if in playful turns, kicking up flurries of snow. I’m sure they had some Rudolf leading them as they seemed intent; quick but not hurried. I remember these Caribou moved as one wave in an opposite yet parallel direction to the train. It seemed we raced by and away from one another at an equal speed. I know too, now that I know the geography of the forty eight puzzle pieces we call states that we were in the upper left hand corner of that puzzle we call this USA and that I should feel proud and a little safer for it.
I’ve learned too, like so many other things seeming big and unlimited, that now some years latter there are many less caribou, and that they must be reckoned and tallied to track their true numbers. I know more about the fewer whales too, but that’s not the same thing, I suppose. Caribou must take up a lot of room like whales do, and there are so many more of us today, so many more, and they tell us we need the room. I have heard that the droves are much farther to the north today and even farther up into the upper left hand corner of places and things, playing and jumping as caribou do among long pipe lines. I wonder if these herd of Caribou are as many, move as fast, and where they go. Is there an end to the northern upper left hand corner? I fear there may be!
                                      E.D. Ridgell