Sold out again

BOEHNERThe Drudge headline this morning is uncannily accurate. On it is a photo of John Boehner, looking down his nose at us…just like Obama. Why? Because he, with McConnell, are about to sell us out. Again!

I first saw the news from an email alert by Erick Erickson of Red State. That was followed by others. Then I saw the Drudge headliner and I knew the fix was in. Boehner and McConnell have been embarrassed by the revolt in their ranks by the conservatives. Boehner received no-so-subtle threats to his Speakership. McConnell had a hissy-fit and behind closed doors, cussed Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.

Neither Boehner nor McConnell care about the effects of higher debt, funding Obamacare, the continued degradation of our nation. Nor are they concerned by the growing dictatorial acts by Obama. Boehner and McConnell are firmly entrenched as members of The Ruling Class. Big government is their personal goal as much as it is for Reid, Obama and the dems.

So what is their current plan? To give in and approve a debt-limit increase AND funding Obamacare. No spending cuts. No reining of government. No, just complete capitulation.

House GOP Preparing to Give Up

By: Erick Erickson (Diary)  |  October 10th, 2013 at 04:30 AM

I’m being told by several sources that Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are plotting to give up trying to either defund or delay Obamacare.

This comes at the same time the Obama administration admits it will be months before their Obamacare website will be fixed and Kathleen Sebelius is saying if people want out of the mandate they can pay a fine.

Nonetheless, Cantor, Boehner, and with them Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn are expected to cave in and fully fund, unimpeded, Obamacare.

They will work up a new deal that includes a debt ceiling increase with a few sops to the GOP as cover. The only change they are still considering it the medical device tax repeal, which is being heavily lobbied for by former Boehner and McConnell staffers who left for K Street.

A number of Democrats who are recipients of campaign cash along with these Republicans may provide a crony capitalist bridge over which this one tax repeal can pass while leaving in place all the other taxes, penalties, and fees.

But John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn will ensure that Obamacare is fully funded and give the American public no delay like businesses have.

In doing so, they will sow the seeds of a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.

 I’m not so sure about that last paragraph, but Boehner and McConnell are undermining any confidence by the GOP core in the party establishment in Washington. If the rank and file of the GOP have no confidence in their party, what obligation do they have to continue to vote for the party? None.


It’s near Halloween. That means it’s time for ghost stories. We, over time, create our own ghosts. We all have some for one reason or another. Life events, especially of people we’ve known well, have loved, create ghosts—the remembrance of those, their ghost, remains with us throughout life.

One of mine is my Grandmother.  She died in 1960 when I was 13, quietly of heart failure. It was late Spring. School was still in session. Mom was teaching in a nearby town. I was a Freshman in High School. Dad, after being laid off at the mines, was working for the county, clearing brush along rural county roads.

A cousin of my Grandmother had died. Visitation was that evening and the funeral was scheduled for the next day. As usual, Grandma spent the day preparing for the funeral dinner—baking several pies and a large blackberry-jam sheet cake. With the pies and cake baking, she worked awhile in our garden, one of three that totaled over an acre. She usually spent the day working around the house and yard. When the rest of us got home, she had supper waiting for us.

I don’t remember much about the visitation that evening. There was no one my age around. On the way home, Grandma said she felt tired and was going to nap. I sat in the back seat next to her. The trip home took about a half hour.

When we arrived home at the farm, Grandma wouldn’t wake up. Mom noticed Grandma wasn’t breathing. We rushed her to the county hospital ten miles away but it was too late.

As usual when we traveled, Grandma always held my hand while we sat in the back seat. I remember she squeezed my hand when she said she was going to take a nap. Sometime during that drive home, she died…holding my hand.

Years later when I was working toward a degree in Psychology, I had a class where we spoke about a traumatic event in our lives. I repeated this story. The trouble was…it wasn’t traumatic for me. My Grandmother was a strong Christian—as were we all. Yes, I was saddened she died but I expect to see her again. Also, I was young and younger folk, through their inexperience in life, sometimes aren’t as affected as are adults.

We all have our ghosts, memories of those who have gone before us. They live in our memories, accompanying us as we travel through life. I believe our behavior is guided more by our ghosts than anything else.

I’m older now and have acquired more ghosts—my Mother, Father, my Father and Mother-in-law, a few high school friends, too. Ghosts need not be fearful. They can be a comfort, our memories of them, of all the good and occasional bad events in our lives. I’m fortunate to have many of the former and few of the latter. I wish the same for you.


When the end of the year approaches, it seems that time compresses.  My wife and I have been running around to attend to some chores…Christmas gifts for the grandkids, buying new fixtures for the outside of our house when the siding project is finished, and a multitude of other tasks.  When we’re finished for the day, supper, more often than not, is a sandwich, soup or something else that can be prepared quickly and easily.

Sometimes, we skip lunch and in mid-afternoon, we’re looking for something for a snack.  Usually for me, that’s nibbling on cheese. For Mrs. Crucis, it’s chips.  We’re both burned out.  In one of our conversations, I remembered that my grandmother liked to snack too.  However, this was before the days of fast food and chips were still a novelty.

After my grandfather died, Grandma came to live with us.  Dad still worked in the mines, Mom was teaching 5th and 6th grades in a school some miles away and I was in school.

Grandma would rise early to fix breakfast for us, and would have supper ready when we all got home around 5pm. She spent much of her day cooking.  She liked to cook. She liked to bake.  She wasn’t much on baking bread, although at times she did. Grandma preferred to bake pies and cakes.  Large sheet cakes.

I still remember coming home late one school day. It was cold. Though the bus dropped me off at the end of our driveway, the short walk to the house still chilled me. I entered the house and found grandma finishing a large sheet cake—one of my favorites, blackberry jam cake with cream cheese icing. She had a piece waiting for me and a large glass of milk.  The cake was still warm.

It wasn’t always a cake.  Just as often it could be an apple, cherry or some other fruit pie. We had a one acre apple orchard on the farm, several cherry trees around the house, a dozen or so rows of strawberries in one garden and yards upon yards of blackberries and raspberries along our fence rows. We always had a supply of canned fruits and berries that Mom and Grandma canned every year.

But pies and cakes weren’t the only thing that grandma liked. She, like me, liked things that were salty. Things like cheese, nuts still in the shell and roasted, salted nuts. More often, she was seen nibbling on those more than sitting down to a piece of cake or a piece of pie.

Although we butchered every year, a hog or two, we didn’t butcher any of the cattle.  For one, we didn’t have that many, and two, the cattle produced more income when taken to market than a hog.  We raised more hogs and hogs had a quicker “turn-around” or reproduction cycle that cattle.  We also raised chickens and for a while, several hundred turkeys for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year tables.  In short, we weren’t starving. No, far from it. We lived “high on the hog” in more ways than one.

The usual evening meal was potatoes in some form, corn or some vegetable from our garden, a meat dish, and pie or cake for dessert.  It wasn’t until a few years later, after Grandma was gone, that, on retrospect, I discovered Grandma’s favorite snack food.

I had never noticed that when Grandma laid out the meat dish, more often Fried Chicken, Pork Chops, a roast, or a turkey, she always seemed to fix too much.  There was always left-overs.  We didn’t mind. Dad always had a nice big lunch at the mine. Mom would sometimes take something to school depending on what was on the school menu. 

I also noticed that chickens always seemed to have four legs and wings. When we had pork chops, Grandma made about half again as much as we could eat in one meal.  When we raised turkeys, we had a roast turkey about one a month.

But the leftovers seemed to be gone quickly. The leftover turkey seemed to disappear quickly too.

One day I did discover Grandma’s favorite snack. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Grandma was a small, slight woman, barely five foot tall and sopping wet, maybe a hundred pounds. No, she wasn’t a large woman. In fact, she looked remarkedly like Grannie on the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show.

I came home from school and entered through the back door. Most folks in our area at that time entered through the back door.  The front door was reserved for “company.” 

When you entered our back door, you can either go straight down the stairs to our basement, or turn right and walk up a few steps into our kitchen.  When I walked through the door into our kitchen, I found Grandma sitting at the kitchen table…with a pork chop in her hand.

She held the chop by the bone and had just taken a bite off the chop. She liked cold pork chops…and chicken legs and wings…and turkey legs and wings…and turkey sandwiches.  Grandma liked just about anything cold that had once ran or had wings.

I remembered later how often I’d come home, at bit hungry, thinking of that leftover pork chop from the night before, or of a chicken leg, or some sliced turkey for a sandwich only to discover they were gone.  I’d always thought they went with Dad for his lunch at the mines.  They did.  But not all of them.  No, Grandma carefully planned Dad’s lunches…and her snacks. After fixing Dad’s lunch, there was always enough for Grandma’s lunch and mid-afternoon snack.

During the week, I was the first one home. Dad arrived next and Mom usually arriving around 5pm.  I caught Grandma snackin’ a few times but never thought much about it. Grandma could really put the food away but she never seemed to gain any weight. She was a hard worker and put those calories to work.

After she was gone, I remarked once at supper that the meals seemed smaller.  Mom smiled.  She knew.  Dad just said we didn’t need as much for three as for four.  I don’t think he ever noticed or if he did, he didn’t ever mention Grandma’s snacking.

Yep.  Grandma was a snacker.  No fast food or unhealthy chips for her.  Nope. Grandma snacked high on the hog…or low as the case may be.           

Breakfast at Grandma’s place

I’ve mentioned my Grandmother in other posts. She married my Grandfather Jim in 1902. My mother was the oldest of five children. One, a twin of my Aunt Anna May, died at a very young age. I don’t remember her name now.

Grandpa was a blacksmith and coal miner and died in 1955. Grandma lived alone in her two-bedroom house in town until 1960 when, after a heart attack, she moved in with Mom, Dad, and me. Before she moved to the country with us, I spent a lot of time with her and frequently stayed over-night.

It was common at that time in coal country that coal heat was the common fuel for heating and cooking. Grandma had an old black pot-bellied stove in the front room and a large wood/coal stove in the kitchen. The other parts of the house was unheated. During the winter, Grandma kept a kerosene space heater in her bedroom, but the front bedroom where I often slept was unheated. And it got cold.

The saving feature that kept me from freezing into an icicle was Grandma’s featherbed filled with goose down. Before she went to bed, Grandma would take a few bricks and put them on the stove. When they were almost burning hot, she’d put them in the feather beds. The bricks heated the beds long enough for body heat to take over. From that point, it was toasty the rest of the night.

Getting up in the morning was an adventure. Whoever got up first would scurry into the kitchen, stir-up the coals from the previous evening, add some coal and get the kitchen warmed up. I would usually burrow into the feather bed until I heard Grandma stirring. When I smelled bacon frying, I’d get up and run into the kitchen to stand next to the stove until breakfast was ready.

As best I remember, Grandma always had some eggs for breakfast. Usually, she’d cook a half-pound of bacon to go with it. At times, she substitute a ham slice or some sausage. My Aunt Anna May sent Grandma a bit of pork sausage every fall—enough to last Grandma through the winter. Just to be different, Grandma would add some grits, or oatmeal, or pancakes to go in addition to the standard fare.

I have a vivid memory of such a scene. Grandma is sitting at the kitchen table. She always wore an old flannel nightgown to bed. Under it, she’d wear some of Grandpa’s old long-johns. I am sitting at the kitchen table with her, hands around a hot cup of cocoa. Grandma has placed our plates on the table filled with bacon and eggs, along with a bowl of oatmeal. She is making some toast on an old manual toaster—two slices for her and one for me. When the toast was finished, she’d add a dab of strawberry or blackberry preserves to the toast.

Grandma was a small slender lady, not quite five feet tall and maybe a 100lbs when wet, but she could really eat. She always polished off her plate and usually a second bowl of oatmeal or whatever she’d added that day to her bacon and eggs.

I would sit eating breakfast. The stove heating my back, the smell of bacon in the air accompanying the scent of cinnamon that Grandma would add to the oatmeal or occasionally to the toast. And, always with coal heat, an underlying distinct odor of burning coal.

Grandma to the Rescue

Every year, when the blackberries and raspberries were ripe, Grandma would round all of us up and we’d go berry pickin’. One Saturday, in the summer after Grandma moved in with us, Mom and Dad went into town leaving Grandma and me at home.

When Grandma got one of her urges, we would all try to keep out of sight. Grandma, at 5′ 2″ and 100lbs. could outwork all of us combined. The signs of one of Grandma’s urges coming on were very apparent. She’d start rooting in the back kitchen cabinets for baskets, large cooking pots or mason jars depending on which urge was about to come forth. That day, she caught me sneaking out the back door. She had two peck-sized baskets in her arms. It was berry picking time!

I hated going berry picking. It was always out in briar patches, with thorns, tics, chiggers, stick tights and cockle burrs. Even the thought of blackberry jelly, jam, jam-cakes and blackberry cobbler was not enough inducement to make me enthusiastic about berry picking.

Next to our farm, running perpendicular to the gravel road in front of our house was an old road bed that ran along the side of our property line to the remains of an old house. Between the road bed and our neighbors corn field was a 200 yard wide strip of scrub land covered with brush, runty blackthorn trees, briar patches, gullies and a few open areas of Johnson grass and other weeds. It was also covered with blackberry and raspberry patches.

Grandma and I walked to the back of our farm to the remains of the old house. From there, we began working our way back towards our house down that scrub strip picking berries as we went. After a half hour, we’d filled about half of our peck baskets and had reached an area where rocks rose to the surface. Most of the dirt had been washed away over the years and Johnson grass and briars were extremely thick.

I was walking ahead of Grandma through an area thick with Johnson grass and weeds. I’d walked about half of the way through the grass when I saw something shaking the leaves and dead grass just to my front. I froze in place. I’d heard that noise before although not so close. I looked carefully and saw a large Copperhead coiled in the grass in front of me. A Copperhead, when agitated, will shake it’s tail and if there are enough dead leaves or if the grass is thick enough, the sound is very much like that of a Rattlesnake.

As I stood there, I heard a similar sound to my right. There was another Copperhead coiled only a yard from me. I shouted, “Copperheads!” to Grandma to warn her. If I had been alone in this situation, I’d would have just backed away slowly. But this time, I was too close to back away. The alternative was to stand still until the snakes moved away.

After 15 minutes or so, the snakes were still in the same spots. Most folks would be getting scared. I certainly was. Grandma got mad.

Grandma was outside the grassy area where I stood besieged by the snakes. She stomped over to a small stand of saplings and cut one down with her knife and stripped all the stems sprouting from it to create a six-foot long bare switch.

Using the switch to sweep the grass in front of her, Grandma walked towards me from my right, seeking any other snakes. Grandma was a firm believer that a switch could break the back of a snake and kill it. I wasn’t all that sure, having never seen it done, but Grandma assured me that she’d killed snakes all her life with just a switch.

Grandma finally approached the Copperhead that was closest to me. She started whipping the switch overhead and down to pop the tip on the snake. On the third swing, the tip of the switch hit the Copperhead just behind its head. The tip of the switch nearly tore the head off the Copperhead. Grandma moved closer to the other Copperhead and began to whip her switch. But, before she could hit it, the other snake moved off through the grass. With the snake moving away,Grandma and I quickly got out of the weeds and onto the old road bed.

Grandma said she’d learn that technique of killing snakes from watching her father kill snakes using a bull whip. She said you had to get a switch that was long, skinny and flexible enough to be able to pop the tip like you were cracking a whip.

We were both feeling shaky from the adreneal rush. Grandma decided that with our two baskets half full, we’d enough blackberries for the day so we walked back home.

Later that evening, after finishing a blackberry cobbler, Dad told us that he thought there was a snake den in that area. He’d seen Copperheads there before and just skirted the area. I had walked through that patch of grass a number of times and had never seen a snake until that day.

I asked Grandma to teach me how to pop a switch like she had with the snake. As much as I tried, I could never get a switch to pop. I did notice, thereafter, whenever we went berry picking, Grandma always cut a switch and took it with her

Grandma and ‘shine.

My grandmother was Lena Estell Miller. She was born in 1886 to Herman and Tilla Horine newly arrived from Hesse, Germany. After the death of my grandfather, she came to live my parents and me in 1958. Grandma stood 5’2″ and on her best day weighed 100 lbs. During the 1930’s, Grandma, like many others in southern Illinois, supplemented the family income with the product of her still. Grandma’s specialty was Applejack.

Now, Grandma was a straight and narrow Christian lady of the old school. But, after a hard day, she did like a little nip of her applejack. When Grandma moved in, she brought a number of jugs with her and stored them in our basement. In all, Grandma must’ve brought about 25 gallons of applejack.

My Grandfather Miller was a farmer near Cairo, Illinois, not too far from where the Mississippi met the Ohio. When the Great Depression hit, money got scarce. Everyone in that area, the Illinois Ozarks, knew how to make a still or knew of someone who did. Running a still at that time, in that area, was a proven method for a second source of income. The demand for ‘shine did not end with prohibition. In many areas the demand increased. Grandma’s ‘shine brought a nice income through the mid-30’s until Grandpa decided to move further north and get a job in the mines. Grandpa, in addition to farming, was a skilled blacksmith with skills in demand in the mines.

In 1936, Grandpa and Grandpa moved to Benton, Illinois in Franklin County. There were six coal mines near Benton and four mines six miles south in West Frankfort. There were also numerous apple orchards in Franklin County as well. By this time, the demand for Grandma’s product had diminished and the efforts of the revenuers had increased. Grandma decided to retire from the ‘shine business—except for a little for herself.

When Grandma moved in with us, she brought along her still. It was small; standing no more than four feet high. Grandma set it up in an old henhouse right next to Dad’s one-acre apple orchard. Every September, Grandma would pick up the best of the apples that had fallen in the orchard, peel and mash them, and for the remaining weeks of September, the old henhouse was infused with the aroma of apples and applejack.

Years later, when Grandma had passed on, Dad and I cleaned out the basement and we found some of Grandma’s old jugs. One still had some applejack. Dad said he wanted to show me something interesting. We took the jug out behind the garage. Dad cleaned out an old tuna can and filled it with applejack from the jug. He lit a match and tossed it into the tuna can. To this day, I can still remember the bright blue flame dancing on the surface of the applejack.