Monthly Archives: June 2013

We’re on Vacation!

Surf's Up!

Post #489

It’s summertime, and with it comes the opportunity for the Biscuit City Executive and Administrative Staff to take a break during the month of July. No word where everyone is heading, but we hope some of them will stay out of trouble, and that everyone will have a good time. A skeleton staff will continue to product those fine Biscuit City products, Preaching to the Choir ( three times a week and On Wings of the Morning ( weekly. We hope you’ll continue reading these and sending in your comments, and we’ll be back in August!

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Friday Poem of the Week: Ink and Memory

Martha Adams' entry in the 1820 Federal Census is about halfway down this image.

Martha Adams’ entry in the 1820 Federal Census is about halfway down this image.

Ink and Memory

The sign in Staples read “Ink and Memory,” and they got that right:

Ink is inextricably linked to memory

Although more profoundly than their products would suggest.

They meant ink for printers and memory cards for computers

I think of the carefully scribed lines in Spenserian script

Found in old census records like the one I was looking at

A couple of nights ago on, the Federal Census of 1820,

And there was my distant ancestor Martha Adams

Who in 1812 owned land in Tennessee on which she paid taxes.

No birth record, of course, but I would estimate her age

In 1812 as about 18, meaning she was born around 1794.

She does not show up on the 1810 Census, so perhaps she emigrated from England,

I believe, sometime before 1812.

As my brother would say, more research is needed.

I wonder what kind of person Martha Adams was.

She might have married a man named Labora Adams

(The records are not clear) and they might have had

A daughter named Matilda who is my three times-great grandmother.

Beyond that I know nothing of her.

What color was her hair?

Did she laugh easily?

Did she work hard like most women of the time?

Did she have good times as well as tragedies?

Weddings, picnics, springtime walks, church services, babies born, engagements, parties,

As well as

Still births, funerals, accidents, absences, quarrels, injuries, deaths, and the like.

What did she eat?

What did she wear?

How long did she live?

Was she happy?

Did her husband and children love her?

Did she love them?

I do not think these things can ever be known

This side of the grave.

But there she is in the careful pen strokes and

In the image on the screen

And so in memory made palpable and living through


Dan Verner

June 27, 2013

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Toggle switches on a car’s dashboard. Don’t know what kind of car it is, but I’d bet it’s fast. And expensive.

I heard on the radio the other day that Ford Motor Company (FoMoCo as we used to call it) was abandoning its touch screen system in some new model cars in favor of–guess what?–switches. Here’s a link with more on the story: Seems that people find the system too hard to use and have to take their eyes off the road to work them. With a switch, once you learn where it is and how it operates, it’s pretty much an eyes-off business.

Well. What do I say, except sometimes the way to go forward is to go back. I’ve written in this space about giving up my smart phone (touch screen) because it’s too complicated to put in the commands. I’ve gotten a retro flip phone, and it’s the bee’s knees. And it has push buttons on it. They’re cousins to the switch, and I for one am glad they’re back in the house.

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As Seen on TV

They were actually more butter colored. I remembered them as gray. Maybe these are made of butter.

They were actually more butter colored. I remembered them as gray. Maybe these are made of butter.

Post 486

One of my favorite reading materials when I was about five was the back of cereal boxes, many of which contained offers for amazing prizes. Sometimes the prizes came in the cereal boxes, like the small plastic Navy frogmen which, with baking soda added to a little pod on their feet, would rise and fall in a glass of water for several minutes.  This entertained me for hours.

Sometimes we had to send in box tops with a quarter or two taped to a card for a prize.  When I was in first grade, one of my cereals (Cheerios, I think, which is still my favorite) offered a Roy Rogers play set for only 25 cents and two box tops.  Well, acquiring the box tops was no problem since I sucked up Cheerios like an Electrolux. The bigger obstacle was procuring the quarter. My parents would not simply give it to me.  Products of the Depression, they were frugal savers before it became fashionable or necessary for many people.  I had to earn my quarter.  I forget what I did, exactly, since I had few marketable skills as a first grader. Several years later they offered me a penny for every dandelion I dug out of our yard. I think I made about $1 before I have it up as a difficult job that I could do without.  I would rather sit around and read.  I was not what anyone would call an industrious child, but the family work ethic kicked in during high school and hasn’t let up since. As Monk says about his detecting abilities, it’s a blessing and a curse.

 Anyhow, once I had the quarter, I had to have an envelope and my mom’s help to write the address and advance me a stamp (about 3 cents then).  Oddly enough, I could read but not write.  I think I figured it took too much effort. I eventually caught up.  Obviously.

 My mother quizzed me about why I wanted an envelope and stamp.  I showed her the picture of the Roy Rogers play set in which the figures looked like they could walk off the page. She snorted. “That’s just a bunch of little blobs of plastic.” Certain that I understood all things Roy Rogers better than she,  I persisted until she gave in, saying, “Well if you want to throw your money away, go ahead.”

I taped my quarter to the card and put the envelope in the mail.  For some reason I remember sending away to Battle Creek, Michigan, which is where the Kellogg’s company is located, not General Mills. I probably read that off other cereal boxes. I imagined Battle Creek as a wondrous sort of year-round Santa’s workshop where elves took quarters out of envelopes from children all over the world and sent them wonderful prizes. It made me feel warm inside to think that so much effort went into making children happy.

I waited out the five-to-six week “fulfillment period,” meeting the mailman each day, looking for my prize.  When the box did come, it was tiny.  I took it inside and tore it open and dumped the contents out. The figures of Roy and Dale, Trigger, Bullet and Buttermilk all looked alike. I couldn’t distinguish one from the other.  They were little blobs of gray plastic.

 I played with my plastic blobs for a while, pretending I could tell the differences among them. I was a little sad, but realized I had learned important lessons at an early age.  Pictures can lie,  things are not always what they seem, and you have to watch how you spend your quarters. Even where Roy Rogers is involved.

Lies, all lies. Who can you trust? Wait, I know--the government!  Oh, wait...

Lies, all lies. Who can you trust? Wait, I know–the government! Oh, wait…

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Friday Poem of the Week: This Poem Lies


This Poem Lies

Now just a minute there:

Poems are supposed to be full of truth
Because Keats said Beauty is Truth
And Emily Dickinson advised us to
“Tell the Truth/But tell it Slant,”
So, a poem filled with lies?
I don’t know—
It’s quite a conundrum for
A literature/poetry/writing/philosophy major
As many of us are.

Sigh. Here goes:

The moon is made of green cheese.
NASA is lying to us.
There are UFO’s out there.
The government is lying to us.
The sun is not shining like a red rubber ball.
The Cyrkle is lying to us.
Elvis is dead
And I don’t feel too well myself.

Lies, all lies, including
This poem
And this line
And that’s no lie.


–Dan Verner

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Making a Difference

FirefighterBlog Post 484

I thought about writing a profile of my friend Lee, whom I have known for years, as an example of someone who is making a difference.

Mr. Lee is a private pilot and a past president of Pilots for Christ, Inc an organization whose members donate their time, skills and use of their aircraft to transport people for medical care or for speaking and singing engagements in the case of missionaries, ministers and singers.

Lee agreed to be the subject of a profile, but I sensed he was uncomfortable at the idea of being singled out. I told him a day later I wanted to broaden the focus of the article and mention as many types of people as possible who make a difference.  I emailed him about the change, and he replied,

“I like the idea of (writing about) those who work behind the scenes or in a low key manner.  I had a friend in the Army who used to say, ‘Heroes know who they are.’  He meant that true heroes don’t need or desire attention.”

I experience this attitude when my dad and I watch the Nationals and the Redskins play on television. Now, we’re not big sports guys: we just like to watch a nice game played by pros.

My dad, a member of the Greatest Generation, does not appreciate athletes who act as if they have won a game all by themselves if they make a good play or put points on the board. “You’d think they were the only one playing,” he says as they celebrate.

He has a point. Without blockers, runners in football wouldn’t get very far. Without the rest of the team playing defense, a home run by a National wouldn’t win a game.

And so,  I want to salute all those people who do their jobs quietly, without notice, and who make a difference. I will have to list them by categories since there are so many. I wish I could name every one, but such a list would run to hundreds of names.

There are…

People who work with children at church and school and at day care and special centers and at home, teaching them and loving them—

Those who use their musical gifts to lead and teach and inspire others and to bring us as participants and spectators a sense of beauty and awe—

Those who keep us safe from danger and anarchy, the fire fighters, police, security specialists and the judges, lawyers and clerks of the legal system–

Those who serve as local, state and national legislators and executives. We complain about them,  but imagine the chaos without their work, experience, energy and care—

Those who work with  local non-profits and arts organizations which make life better for so many people–

Local merchants who employ people and contribute to the community in any number of ways outside their businesses–

 Employees who work cheerfully and give a full day’s work for a day’s pay, doing everything that makes our lives as we know them possible–

Members of the news media, both print and electronic who work hard to bring us the truth about events and situations and allow us to make informed decisions—

IT and tech people who keep us connected and working—

Owners, servers, and cooks at local restaurants who provide good food, good times and gathering places for families, friends and co-workers—

Those who drive and make deliveries for a living so we can live as we do—

Doctors who tend to young and old alike—

Nurses who provide a healing touch and professional care for their patients–

Those who work in retirement homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes providing for the elderly—

Clergy who lead in worship, help people throughout the week and model humility, faith and service to their congregations and to the community—

Retired people who could play golf or watch television all day but choose to do something useful and helpful to others—

Volunteers and volunteer organizations from firefighters to hospital workers to library helpers to community, church and school volunteers—

Coaches, who impart lifetime skills and attitudes to their charges—

Local writers who share a common passion for the written word and support each other in their work–

If I didn’t list what you do to make a difference in this life and in this community, consider yourself recognized. And all those of you who make a difference—you  know who you are! May your tribe increase!

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Cat Tricks


Believe it or not, cats can be taught to do tricks. They can even be taught to use the toilet. Doing so requires patience and skill, both of which I lack, so our cats are pretty much as they came out of the can. They do have two tricks: eating and sleeping. They do both very well. We seem to acquire cats which are strong minded and not about to do a trick for anyone. Nacho will play with a pencil and is an excellent eight-pound guard animal, staying with me and lying between me and anyone who would do me harm. So watch out! If you want a piece of me, you’ll have to deal with a piece of a fighting mad dilute tortie/Siamese mix.

My brother once had a cat that he wore on the top of his head like a hat. (Our cats don’t like to be picked up,  much less worn as a fashion statement.) I was thinking about this when I was trying to remember if we had had any cats who would do tricks, and it put me in mind of the popularity of the Davy Crockett Disney TV series, with Fess Parker as DC and Buddy Ebsen as Georgie Russell, his sidekick. (I need to do a piece on sidekicks. There don’t seem to be many around any more, and I miss them. Batman and Robin, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles, the Cisco Kid and Pancho,  Huck and Jim, Han and Chewie…you get the idea.) Anyhow, Fess Parker wore a coonskin cap on his head, which is pretty strange if you think about it, although if the one you owned got messed up, you’d just shoot another coon and turn it into a hat. Parker’s model didn’t have the head on it. I think John Wayne’s did when he played Davy in the movie The Alamo. Or maybe that was Daniel Boone. I forger who played that. Anyhow, every kid I knew would have killed for a coonskin cap, which is pretty weird when you consider that you’d be wearing a dead animal on your head. Granted, they didn’t have many sartorial choices on the frontier and couldn’t exactly trip on over to their local MLB store and buy a Nationals hat.

So, we do live in better times. I just wonder if Davy Crockett could train his cats.

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Friday Poem of the Week: Efficiency vs. Beauty and Grace


Efficiency vs. Beauty and Grace

Having left a car for my aunt to use
At the assisted living place where my Dad lives
While she visits him
I walk home, a distance of about half a mile
In the bright spring sunshine,
Wondering why I don’t walk more.
I see things I don’t see when I drive
But, darn it, I have places to go and
People to see and don’t have the time
To walk everywhere and so I don’t.

But I should.

I remember my grandmother talking about
Walking to see people a distance of eight miles
One way. That would take five hours total,
Visiting time not included.
Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy walked
Twenty miles in a day just for a lark
Or a daffodil or a beautiful spring lea.

I am such a weakling, insulated from nature
Most of the time, moving from heated space
To heated space or air conditioning to air conditioning.

I am missing out on so much Beauty and Grace
In the name of cold Efficiency.

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A Tale of Peter Rabbit…or Not…

Ken Duck's humane rabbit trap. Nice woodworking, Mr. Duck!

Ken Duck’s humane rabbit trap. Nice piece of woodworking, Mr. Duck!

This post is courtesy of fellow Manassas Chorale member and aerospace enthusiast Ken Duck. We’ve known Ken and his wife Myrtle for years: he’s a gentle and affable sort who also plays in a band (not a rock band, but one using instruments like horns and reeds), and Myrtle is a smiling and sharp lady who taught both our girls math. Enjoy Mr. Duck’s tale of rabbits run amok and his solution…and he did not call on Elmer Fudd to hunt wabbits…because as the Geico commercial might say, “Elmer Fudd can’t hunt wabbits because he’s not real. He’s a cartoon, and cartoon characters can’t hunt real rabbits.”

As many of you who know Mike, Zuill, John, and me, must understand by now that we are badly frustrated by rabbits, especially on Station Four at the Bull Run Shooting Center sporting clays course. Mike, Zuill, and John know that, as I often do when facing a challenge, I built a mathematical model of the situation, and it worked… once! Myrtle has now developed her own rabbit frustration, i.e., a 3/4 grown rabbit is chowing down on all the expensive plants in her new garden. As cute as he is, M is about to go postal on him. She even bought a trout net at Target to try to catch him for relocation. Me, being a bit of a smart aleck, offered to lend her the Beretta 12 gauge or the Benelli 20 gauge to deal with the problem, once and for all. She feels my suggestion would not work because:

1. She’d probably shoot herself in the foot;
2. The neighbors, the rabbit, and Prince William County’s finest would not be happy, especially in the middle of the night when the critters typically dine.

All that being said, I decided to take a different tack, namely, to build a live trap and take the captured bunny deep in the forest, spin him around fourteen times and release him to the wild. I remembered that my eccentric Uncle Bernie, my mom’s oldest brother, who farmed at night because it was cooler, used to have similar traps near all his crops because he liked to eat rabbits, and any trapped rabbit didn’t pilfer his crops either.

I must say that my trap looks a bit more finished than my uncle’s. This fine trap has now been baited with fresh carrots and spinach and placed in the garden. Tomorrow, I’ll publish chapter 2, especially if I’m successful. This project has kept me off the street and out of saloons all afternoon long.

Can you guess what M wants now? She has a Bambi problem too. Do you think this trap could be scaled up to deer size? It would certainly need wheels for portability.


I’ll post the results of this episode of Call of the Wild when I get them!

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A Floral Surprise

Day Lilies (not mine)

Day Lilies (not mine)

I have a brown thumb. I know it, and I admit it. So when I got some day lilies last summer to go around the mail box, I wasn’t surprised when the leaves turned yellow and died. Maybe I watered them too little; maybe I watered them too much; maybe I planted them too deeply; maybe I didn’t plant them deep enough. I don’t know. I’ve killed plants off so frequently I just shrugged at this latest example of floracide and went on. The poor plants endured as some dry brown husks.

Then, this spring, I noticed that they were coming back! They had greened up, and one of the two plants started growing. Now it has nice yellow flowers. The other is still stunted but still, it’s green!

I reported my experience to a lady in choir who knows a whale of a lot about plants and flowers. She said, “Well, you can’t kill day lilies. They’ll live in a ditch by the side of the road and they don’t care if it’s too wet or too dry.” I was glad to hear they were hard to kill, but not as impressed with my success in bringing them back. I didn’t do anything after all, but apparently if I want real success with day lilies, I need to dig a ditch by the side of the road.

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