The Wearing of Beards

In my childhood I don’t think I ever saw a man with a beard, other than “Santa Claus.” Yeah, this dates me. Pre-1960. Hippies with long straggly beards and hair, worn in rebellion against the Establishment, didn’t come to Canada until I was in my teens.

Beatniks there were, but they hung out in far-off American cities, so I had very little idea about their appearance. My dad and his friends, of average Canadian farm folk background, would have considered a beard a disgrace to a man — an odd reversal of natural circumstance. Older men we’ve talked with, whose memories go back to small-town life in the 30s and 40’s, remember beards being ridiculed and young men who wore them being tormented.

When I did hear the word when I was young, it was usually associated with mumbling. If she couldn’t hear his reply, Mom might say, “Dad’s mumbling in his beard again.” I think they even accused me of mumbling into my beard a time or two. I suppose that’s a cliche now?

In my teens I did see some older men with beards, and decided that a neatly-trimmed beard or goatee looks quite distinguished.

Today, in contrast, beards seem to be everywhere. Or “shadow beards.” Look at book covers and magazines: most of the males I see have the three-day-stubble look; some might have a neatly trimmed beard. But clean-shaven men seem to be in the minority in photos. Plus, Amish romances are very popular; on those covers, beards are a given.

As an adult, starting to learn about church and religion, I discovered there’s a Bible-based reason for men wearing beards. Different religious groups (including the one we’ve joined) teach that this natural male-female distinction has been instituted by our Creator for a reason and men should maintain this natural order. This would include Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Muslims, the Amish, several Mennonite groups, Old German Baptists and others I’m not familiar with.

Jewish and Christian groups refer back to the Mosaic law where “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” (Leviticus 19:27) Some Jewish groups take this “corners” to mean “sideburns,” so they let theirs grow into what looks like long ringlets.

The Amish take it to mean, don’t trim your beard at all. However, coming from Europe where army officers had a lot of pride in their elaborate moustaches, the Amish have rejected moustaches as vanity. So, while Amish men have beards, they don’t wear moustaches. Looking at images on Wikki, I see the Old Order German Baptists must share this thinking. Both groups do cut their hair, but more in the style of the Quakers. (When they came to America and settled in Pennsylvania the Amish adopted a lot of the Quaker styles, like the broad-brimmed hat and plain coat.)

Our church believes “the beard” is a symbol of the sexual distinction, one that should not be removed. However, we aren’t living under the Mosaic Law now, so the Church doesn’t take this “not marring” as a rigid law. Our men believe in being all-round neat, and trim their hair and beards to look tidy.

And thus ends my quick overview in response to Fandango’s word for today: BEARD

Prairie Groupings

With apologies to Linda at Linda’s Writing Blog for carrying this to ludicrity. 😉

A bevy of buffaloes made its way across the fenceless prairie, followed by a flock of aboriginal hunters dreaming of sizzling steaks. In the wings, a murder of crows settled on the buckbrush bushes that grew in the coulie. A file of coyotes trotted along the coulie as well, awaiting the aftermath of the natives’ nefarious plans.

Overhead an assassination of vultures circled, hoping the hunt would provide them with a few feasts as well. Should the hunt fail, the vultures, opportunists rather than fussy eaters, might still be left a trampled coyote or two.

Ahead of the buffalo a cluster of startled grouse flew up, propelling their plump bodies toward the coulie. Before they could recover from their sharp-tailed flight a couple of the birds met a sad fate at the paws of the wily lead coyote. Life on the prairie tended to be short for meaty birds.

Slowly the hunters advanced and the buffalo moved ever closer to the ravine ahead. Near the lip of the ravine an amazement of other natives had concealed themselves in the sagebrush. The plan was stellar. As the buffalo approached the ravine, this group would spring out at the side of the herd, making a cacophony of noise. Fenced off from flight on one side, hopefully some of the startled buffalo would dash over the lip of the ravine, where a dispatch of men with spears would finish off any survivors.

The animals, quickly attacked by a clan of carvers, would be transformed into strips of meat to be pounded and smoked by a web of women. This meat would provide the natives with food for another winter. Buffalo hides would become blankets. A scrabble of miscellaneous wild creatures would scrap over whatever remained when the natives were done.

As the moon rose over the ravine that night, a smudge of smoke rose toward the stars. Fifteen beasts from the bevy had hurtled over the precipice; buffalo meat had filled the tribal tummies and the rest was curing over the fires. The hunters, old and young, sat in a circle visiting. A herd of youngsters played “hunters and buffalo” while the mothers sang softly to dozing infants.

Writing prompts for today:
Ragtag Community :  HERD
Fandango’s challenge : FENCE
Word of the Day :  STELLAR

The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

A Chapter Closed

Another old schoolhouse, abandoned,
like dozens of others still standing
at the edge of nondescript prairie towns.

Its panes shattered through the years
by boys with slingshots and bee–bees;
its subjects lost in a sea of wild grass;
its imparted wisdom, like its students,
scattered to the four winds.

A person still finds a few spindly shrubs
clustered close to its sheltering side
like those shy first-graders of yesteryear.

My response to the Word of the Day challenge: NONDESCRIPT

The Adaptable Brew

FOR THE LOVE OF A BEAN

In morning mist of history, someone invented a pot.

Somewhat later one of these pots, full of boiling water, sat over someone’s cooking fire and they decided to toss in some dried berries they found on a bush. And when they took a slurp of the dark, dark water covering the beans, they thought, “Hmm… I kind of like that!” Someone soon thought of crushing the beans to release more of this appealing flavor. And the rest is history.

After years of boiling the crushed beans in a pot some clever soul saw the potential for improvement by putting these grounds in a bag and pouring boiling water over them. His idea caught on; folks did like the taste better.

Some years later another inventive person thought of a longer, skinnier pot with a spout for pouring, a metal basket like a sieve to hold the beans above the water, and a pipe that would pump boiling water up and over the beans. This “coffee percolator” went over well.

While percolators were bubbling merrily on stoves all across the world, other innovative people were at work with wires, metal drums, dams and windmills — testing, adapting. Finally lights went on all across the land and homes were wired for electricity. Some manufacturer of coffee percolators saw and opportunity and invented a stove-less coffee perk.

People developed more refined tastes. The idea of water washing repeatedly over the coffee fell into disfavor. Innovative designers produced an appliance where the water dripped down over the grounds only once. This new drip coffee-maker went over big time.

Electronics were added a clock so the user could programme when the machine would start to drip. Presto! Fresh coffee in the morning. Consumers were delighted with this innovation.

Someone else, in an attempt to satisfy the world’s need for speed and convenience, thought of putting the coffee grounds into small pods — then designed a machine that would hold an individual pod and drip water over it, to produce a single cup of coffee.

Innovation didn’t stop there. Someone else adapted the idea by adding a reservoir to hold water and a heating chamber to heat enough water for each cup. An electronic panel lets users select the amount of water that passed through the pod, and the speed, which affected the strength of the brew.

Our daughter found one of these marvelous inventions on Kijiji some months ago and presented it to us as a just-for-anyhow present. So we’re up with the latest; my morning cup of coffee sits here beside me as I type this. And I see a bug has landed in it. Grrr…! Guess you can’t fix every glitch. 😦

As I write these words, more adaptations are being tested in laboratories around the world. Ideas to make brewing our favorite beverage even more convenient. Who knows when the next clever innovation will appear in the market place?

Alas! If this process continues, I fear the day may come when I can’t figure out how to operate a coffee maker and have to become a tea granny like my Mom.

Disclaimer:
The writer makes no claims as to the historical accuracy of this article. 😉

Daily Addictions prompt: INNOVATION

FOWC with Fandango: PRESENT

Word of the Day challenge: POTENTIAL

That Long Dark Night

Fandango’s FOWC Word prompt for today is: MEMORY

I appreciate these agreeable, simple words! This one should inspire a wide variety of responses. For my response I’m going to pull up a tidbit I originally posted in Dec 2013.

“Where were you when the lights went out?”

Remember that question, popular in the early seventies? Do you remember the incident it stems from? Can you remember the BeeGees’ song “When the Lights All Went Out in Massachusetts”? If you can, you’re as old as I am!

One day my mind went back to that long dark night, so I asked some friends these questions. They’d never heard of it. Some had heard that question, but had no idea what incident it referred to. Tsk, tsk! A whole generation has arisen (maybe even two already) who don’t remember when the lights all went out in Massachusetts.

But what year was that again? And what caused the power failure? And which states did it hit? I was pretty sure I remembered, but when I googled it, I found that I hadn’t gotten the basic details straight at all. All these years I thought the Yanks were to blame, but it actually started when Canadian electrical workers used the wrong size of wire in a power substation. (Blush!)

One book I refer to at times and enjoy reading just for the fun of it is Jack M. Bickham’s The 38 MOST COMMON FICTION WRITING MISTAKES (And How to Avoid Them)  © 1992 by Jack M. Bickham

Chapter 20 in this book is titled: “Don’t Assume You Know; Look It Up”
This is invaluable advice.

So, dear aged friends, without asking Mr Google, when did the lights go out all across the Eastern seaboard and southern Ontario and Quebec? And where were you?

 

Teeth You Could Afford

Mail Order Teeth, Anyone?

Back in the spring of 2013 I was helping my cousin organize her place, and she showed me this letter her mother received decades ago. My cousin saved it all these years as a souvenir and I found the details quite interesting – especially the prices quoted. We all know what new dentures will set you back these days.

Daily Addictions prompt word for today: AFFORD

Before you read this letter I should tell you that Kinloch is a small remote town on the northern fringe of farming settlements land in eastern Saskatchewan, as much bush (mostly poplar forest) as farm land.

Ward’s Dental laboratory
Mail Order Dept
P.O. Box 16
Montreal, Quebec

June 10, 1944

Mrs W Vance
Kinloch, SK

Dear Mrs. Vance,

We have your esteemed inquiry re false teeth and in reply would say that we make full sets from $30 to $45, but we particularly recommend our $35.50 sets to give excellent satisfaction. This is $17.75 for each plate; upper and lower.

Terms for single plates: $5.00 with order, balance on delivery. Our terms for full sets are $5 with order, $20.50 on delivery and balance in two monthly payments of $5 each.

Our method of taking the impression is very simple. We send you dental compound that is soft and pliable. You bite into it, leaving an accurate impression of your jaws. By our simple method we give you the same high class service as one living in the largest city and without the loss of time and inconvenience.

All our work is done by skilled technicians in an up-to-date laboratory and few dentists are equipped to do work like ours. We guarantee the fit of our plates as well as the workmanship, for a plate that does not fit properly is not cheap at any price. Ward plates are natural looking and positively fitting. New hue Trubyte teeth $1.00 each plate extra.

We believe that one of the best investments a man or woman can make is in a properly fitting set of false teeth as poor chewing means indigestion and other disorders and one’s personal appearance means so much.

We thank you for the inquiry and it would be a pleasure to be of service to you.

Yours very truly,
Ward’s Dental Laboratory

P.S. : Our travelling dentist will call on you when in your area if desired.

(Weren’t they a trusting bunch? If you got your teeth and didn’t pay the remaining two monthly $5 payments, they could hardly reclaim them.)