Boots & Charlie

Boots Poffenberger and Charlie Farquharson a.k.a. Don Harron have one wonderful thing in common: They both never lost sight of the joy in the world. I’ll be talking about Boots next Wednesday from 6:00-7:00 at the Fletcher Library’s “Meet the Author” lecture series in Hagerstown. I’d love to see you if you’re in the area. It’s Charlie, however, that’s the subject of today’s post.

Charlie Farquharson, the bumpkin whose hilarious innocence produced subtle wisdom, was the creation of Don Harron, a multi-talented actor and writer who died last week at the age of 90. Harron developed cancer for which he refused treatment (which, come to think of it, Boots did as well.) Most Americans got to know Charlie as the KORN news reporter on Hee Haw.

I had written a story in 2012 based on Charlie’s penchant for malopropisms entitled, “The Radio Days of Charlie Hydes.” I wanted to secure Don Harron’s permission, blessing really, and to let him know that the story was a tribute to all the joy that he had brought to me through the character of Charlie. I found him on Facebook and, much to my surprise, he acknowledged my friend request immediately and said that I could send the story to him for his approval which he quickly gave. Shortly after I posted the story to his Facebook page I received in the mail an autographed copy of Olde Charlie Farquharson’s Testament. I should clarify that this was autographed by “Charlie” who had inscribed it “For Osstin, a reel riter from your revrent admirer.” What struck me the most, however, was the package to which was attached one of those familiar return address stickers. It was Don Harron’s address. It was as if we were old friends and he just happened to slip me something in the mail. This man with thousands of admirers acknowledged me for being one of them much to my delight.

That’s the thing about guys like Don Harron and Boots–they not only recognize the joy in the world, they create more of it. Hope this video brings a little joy to you, today.

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Kitchen Garters

One of life’s great annoyances is getting the cuff of your sweater sleeve wet while doing the dishes. I rank it well above stepping in water in stocking feet. In fact, I rank it above receiving a small flesh wound. I’m reminded of this annoyance because, as with many of you, I had to wash many pots and pans over the recent holidays.

Doing the dishes while wearing long sleeves goes something like this: pull up sleeves, run the water into the sink, pull up sleeves, put pans in sink, pull up sleeves, begin scrubbing the first pan, pull up right sleeve, rinse first pan, pull up right sleeve all the way to the arm pit, begin scrubbing second pan, pull up right sleeve again because now the elastic in the cuff is stretched beyond all proportion, rinse second pan, pull up both sleeves and notice that now the crook of your right elbow is wet because you’ve had your left hand in the water and can’t be bothered to dry it every time your right sleeve falls down. Repeat.

Given our technology shouldn’t someone have developed an app or something to keep this from happening? I’m not the creative type, but if you want to make a great deal of money, invent the kitchen garter; you know, some elastic contraption that would attach to your sleeve, then run around behind your back to your other shoulder.

And please don’t tell me to simply take off my sweater before starting on the dishes. I’m not about to surrender to a sink full of sudsy water before the battle has even begun.

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Taking a Chance on Life

There’s an old song from the early 1940s entitled, “Taking a Chance on Love.” Most of us recognize the truth in that: Better to have loved and lost, etc., etc. Too many folks, however, are scared to take this idea to the next level, really to the ultimate level. The New Year provides a perfect opportunity for taking a chance on life. It’s funny really. We can examine our lives and recognize that we have made mistakes and that we have failed in the past, and we know that this is bound to happen in the future. This knowledge tends to paralyze many of us in the present, but it should free us and empower us to live boldly.

I don’t mean that everyone should learn to parachute or lay in supplies for the ascent of Mt. Everest. Heck, there are some days I have trouble ascending the stairs. It does mean, however, that we can take a chance on being kind, on being happy, on forgiving, on taking the plunge inward to really know ourselves. It means that we can take a chance on letting go of the guilt and regrets and fears that we have carried so long that we no longer realize how much those things impede our progress through Life. And, hey! We only have one shot at this. We can’t be afraid to act because we may “get it wrong.”

This summer while riding my bike along the C&O Canal, I decided that I would go further up the towpath than I had ever been. In just a few minutes, I came across the breathtaking sight of five acres of wildflowers. They were beautiful, but impossible to see at a distance because of the native trees and shrubs. For pedaling just a little further than I usually did, however, I was greatly rewarded. 2014-08-18_14-47-51_528






Perhaps the biggest reward was the sign placed along the towpath by the farmer:


Dare to trample a few flowers in order to pick a bouquet.

Happy New Year.

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Combating the Trivialization of Christmas

We are way past the commercialization of Christmas. With Christmas merchandise in stores before Halloween and Christmas music playing 24 hours a day by the first of November and Christmas movie marathons running for weeks on end, we have reached the trivialization of Christmas, as Martha so eloquently put it during a recent conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever been as blasé about Christmas as I am this year. No, let me correct that: I’m more blasé about the Christmas season than ever, but more excited about the Christmas spirit than ever. People use that phrase, Christmas spirit without giving much thought as to its actual definition. To me, it’s much less about Christmas gifts and much more about Christmas gestures and those can be handed out on June 25th as easily as December 25th.

I have received many such gestures this past year. People have given me their time in interviews, have read my blog and my books, have laughed with me, danced with me, played catch with me. There is no qualitative difference whether those gestures said, “You matter for the rest of my life” or “You matter in this moment.” It’s not “one size fits all”; it’s more like “all sizes fit one.” I am so grateful to have been that one so often.

It really is the thought that counts; the thought and the laughing, hugging, playing, listening. Every morning, we should rise and fill our sleighs with that stuff and hand them out where needed. Which is everywhere. We all want to know that we matter, even if it is just for the moment. After all, Life is but a series of moments. Thanks to the many of you who have made so many of my moments in 2014 feel like Christmas.

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Safe at Home for Christmas

I can’t imagine that anything would put you in the proper Christmas spirit more than purchasing the books of a writer struggling to gain a foothold in the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens of the world. That’s why you should think about giving my books to everyone you know this Christmas. Make that EVERYONE!

In all seriousness, I do have a deal for you and it comes with a very heartwarming story. Safe at Home CoverFINALMr. Allyn Gibson recently wrote a review of Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley on his blog after purchasing the e-version through Smashwords. It was a very positive review, but one of Allyn’s criticisms was the formatting of the ebook. (Some writer who knows nothing about computer codes and formatting did that. . . .) We began an email correspondence and in very short order, Allyn offered to reformat the ebook. Explaining that he loved “puzzles” and to “tinker” with such computer problems, he had at it.

The result is nothing short of fantastic, most notably in Allyn’s integration of full color photos. Even if you have a hard copy, the ebook version is worth having, just for this feature. (These photos appear in black and white in the softcover version.) If you already have an e-version you can go back to Smashwords and re-download your file of choice. If you don’t, you can purchase a copy for only $2.99. Just click on “Book Information” at the top of this page.

Thank you, Allyn! You’re a Santa Claus for Safe at Home fans.

Now, here’s some more good news: Don’t forget that you can download Their Glorious Summer a must read, especially for Valley Baseball League fans for free! Make that FOR FREE! It’s been downloaded 865 times as of this writing and it would be rewarding to say that it reached 1,000 people.

Merry Christmas!

And buy my books! (The management of this blog apologizes for that last bit of Christmas commercialization.)

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Feast Your Ears on This

Here’s an interesting trivia question with which to entertain your holiday guests: Which musical act placed more songs (46) in Billboard’s Top Ten than either Elvis or the Beatles? The act also appeared in more Hollywood movies (17) than any other music group. The answer, as you have gathered if you peaked at the video below, is the Andrews Sisters. I don’t know about you, but that information truly surprises me, though perhaps it shouldn’t.

There is a wide-spread notion that America’s youth culture began in July of 1954 when “Rock Around the Clock” topped the charts and began the rock ‘n’ roll era, but this just isn’t so. The first “superstar” to use the post-War vernacular was Benny Goodman who played to sold out concerts where “the kids” (who would be in their 80s and 90s now) were dancing in the aisles. Girls were screaming over Frank Sinatra 15 years before their daughters swooned over Elvis Presley. Swing created rock stars before there was rock. In the middle of it all were the Andrews Sisters. Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne enjoyed their first hit in 1937 with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” which was the B side of record at a time when the teenagers were being paid $50.00 per recording session. (Not apiece; $50.00 to be split three ways.) In fact, the song was recorded November 24, 1937—77 years ago yesterday.

It’s remarkable that 73 years after its debut, even many youngsters know the song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” which is their most famous hit, although “Rum and Coca-Cola” was their biggest seller. Indeed, dress three women in ‘40s style, direct them to sing in harmony, and everybody thinks “Andrews Sisters,” and that would be the case even if they were singing “Inna Godda Davida.”

Their distinctive harmony is still influencing singers even now. The tight harmonies of the Puppini Sisters as well as their name (the girls are not actually sisters) are a tribute to the Andrews Sisters. Also, witness Christina Aguilera’s 2006 song, “Candyman” which Aguilera and co-writer Linda Perry stated was a tribute to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” While “Candyman’s” lyrics are suggestive (well, more like direct) they are perhaps no more so than “Rum and Coca-Cola,” a 1944 #1 hit for the Sisters that spoke of local women prostituting themselves to American servicemen (“Both mother and daughter/Working for the Yankee dollar”). Maxene told big band authority Fred Hall in a 1986 interview that the girls had no idea what the song even meant.

Indeed, the Andrews Sisters’ pleasant harmony and song selections evoke a more innocent time even as the horrors of World War II were unfolding. When the last surviving sister, Patty, died in July 2013, an era had truly passed. I hope that at some point during the upcoming holidays, when you’ve had your fill of football or you’ve heard “Run, Run Rudolph” for the 1,289th time, that you’ll click on some of the links contained herein and return to the boogie woogie world of the Andrews Sisters.

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Look Like Boots Poffenberger From the Ears Up

I’m excited to tell all those Boots P0ffenberger fans out there, especially those in Williamsport, that a reproduction 1940s Nashville Vols hat is now available for sale. My friend Skip Nipper, who runs a website about Sulphur Dell, the ballpark that once stood in Nashville and in which Boots played, is offering both flex-fit and fitted caps (as well as a variety of other souvenirs.) Go to the store page and check it out. I have a flex fit cap which is well made and comfortable. Skip’s prices are more than compatible with anything you’d find in a brick and mortar store for the same quality.

Nashville is building a new ballpark on the old Sulphur Dell site, which I believe is scheduled to open for the 2016 season. Boots fans who travel to Nashville then should be sure to stop by for a visit. Of course, you can always visit Skip’s website for a virtual visit to the old ballpark. His site was very helpful when I was researching Boots’ time in Nashville in 1940 and part of 1941 for Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser.

Remember that Christmas is coming. I can’t think of anything better to get your baseball-lovin’ loved one than a book and a hat!

Boots in his Nashville Vols hat . . .

Boots in his Nashville Vols hat . . .

Me, in my Nashville Vols hat.

Me, in my Nashville Vols hat.

The reason Boots is holding a sprayer!

The reason Boots is holding a sprayer!

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