WordPress Meets the Press Gang

Through the medium of WordPress, several bloggers are offering me some unusual prompt words for today. I even had to look up three of them to be certain of their meanings.
Ragtag Daily Prompt: HARDIHOOD
— boldness, daring, courage; self-confident audacity

Word of the Day: URGES
— (noun): strong desires or impulses.
— (verb): to repeatedly or insistently try to encourage or persuade someone.

Your Daily Word Prompt: RECONDITE
— Difficult or impossible for the ordinary person to comprehend, as a DEEP subject
— Referring to something little known or obscure
— Hidden from sight. Concealed

Fandango’s FOWC: SCUTTLEBUTT
The original meaning of this word has provided the track for my train thoughts this morning.
Scuttlebutt: a ship’s water butt – a cask holding the day’s supply of fresh water. And since this was where sailors gathered to drink and exchange gossip, the word eventually included the gabfest that went on around the scuttlebutt.
The old oaken cask (scuttled butt) has been replaced by the office fountain or water cooler and the term has come to mean “gossip and rumors that circulate.”

THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH

One day my great-great-grandfather John Smith sat visiting with his youngest son, Moses, and John was telling Moses what happened when he was nine years old that shaped his entire future. Fortunately for me, Moses’ youngest daughter happened to overhear the conversation. A few years ago I able to track down this long-lost relative, in her late 90s and still of clear memory. She shared this story with me:

As a nine-year-old boy John was walking down the street in an English city – he thought it was London – when a couple of sailors from the British navy grabbed him and hustled him onto a ship in the harbour. This was one of the press gangs that worked the English port cities, kidnapping boys and young men to serve on the ships. John must have been a husky lad; I can’t imagine they’d grab a puny little guy who might not survive the rough sea life.

So who was this lad and what were his origins? Was his name actually John SMITH, or did the sailors tack that label on him, possibly to deflect inquiries? From info on his death record, John was born circa 1828. Young boys in those days likely weren’t so informed about their family history or even their location – perhaps he’d never even been to school. Was he from a caring home, or were his parents down-and-out sorts? Maybe he was an orphan, just a street urchin that happened to wander too near the port? Was John’s father a Swedish sailor, or why does my DNA show that I have 9% Scandinavian ancestry when I find so little in my known family tree?

If our children go missing, it’s a tragedy. Did John’s family search for him? Was he hidden from the authorities – or did any authority ever check on ship’s crews or search for missing boys and young men? After all, press gangs operated with the collusion of the Crown. I try to imagine the recondite lives these fellows lived as captives of the British Navy: the possible abuses, the hard labour, primitive medical care, rickets and scurvy, wild storms, dim prospects of deliverance. I have to admit I’m living in one of the best eras ever.

For the next four years gr-gr-grandfather was held on that ship, working as a cabin boy, never allowed to set foot on shore. I can picture him gathering around the scuttle-butt with the other sailors, hearing their tales of the sea, of exotic ports, of ships that went down in storms. Did John have a natural hardihood, or was he terrified in this new setting? I’m sure he had the urge many times to escape this forced servitude and find his family again – if he had any – but he was never allowed ashore.

When he was fourteen the ship docked in Halifax harbour and somehow John managed to escape. He told his son Moses that the sailors turned the ships guns on him as he was fleeing, but he made it into the woods and hid there in the forest until the ship sailed away. From Halifax he made his way to southwestern Ontario and worked as a labourer; in time he managed to buy a farm near Listowell. To the best of my knowledge, he never again had contact with any family in England.

Around 1855, when he’d have about twenty-seven, John married Ruth Dobson, a young woman from a very religious home. Her parents were John & Ruth; her brother Jonathan grew up to become a well known Methodist preacher. Ruth called herself a Methodist and John listed himself on all the Ontario censuses as an Unbeliever. Their oldest daughter, Mary – my great-grandmother – was born in 1856. Their oldest son, William, apparently became a policeman in Toronto. Mary, as Mrs Sam Vance, moved west and lost all contact with her Smith relatives.

Oct 19, 2020:
My dentist’s office just called about my appointment tomorrow. Can’t just walk into the office now, must wear a mask, etc. Yes, my activities are being restricted and everyone is fearful of COVID – and who knows what the economy will do? Scuttlebutt has it that a vaccine is in the works, but may take awhile yet. Yes, these are uncertain, fearful times – but as I let my thoughts drift back through the years to young John, hiding in the woods near Halifax, totally alone, with only his own hands and hardihood to provide for him in this new land – I can’t complain about my lot!

So I’m sitting here this morning enjoying my coffee, playing with these new words, and wondering about my DNA results – all because “John Smith” acted on his urge to escape and jumped ship in the Halifax harbour circa 1842. Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing great-great-grandfather’s story.

Apostrophic Lapses

Good morning everyone!
I have been reading in Lynne Truss’s book, Eats, Shoots
and Leaves and came across her lament about misused and AWOL apostrophes.
Ms Truss tells of how she wrote an article for The Daily Telegraph about incorrect or missing punctuation and got an avalanche of letters from readers sharing and ticked off over violations they’d seen.

A lack of apostrophic know-how & know-where leads to signs like:

Lemon’s – 2 for $1
(or even) Lemon,s – 2 for $1
Trouser’s shortened
Summer cottages’ for rent
Member’s Only
Mikes’ Garage
The Smiths’s Silver Anniversary
Cyclist’s only on this path
The guest speakers talk will be about…
XMA’S trees
Jamison Antique,s

Her account, coupled with various writing prompts yesterday and today, has led me to write this verse:

THE OVER-WORKED EDITOR

Apostrophe confusion
gives Editor such grief:
he finds them wandering randomly
or employed beyond belief.

For Thompson’s prone to muff it
typesetting the word beaux’s
and covering the Jone’s affair
his know-where hits new lows.

An ad reads “Naval orange’s”
and Molly’s ship is sinking,
while it’s and its and their and they’re
confuse that fellow Pinking.

Restrained the Editor may be
but don’t you know he’ll rage
should “Sports Marts’ Sale on Bycycle’s”
appear on his printed page.

He caught “the citys’ bylaw”
before it got to press,
but a write-up about the Queens’ speech
led to a royal mess.

So he begs them to get serious:
“Study punctuation rules!
We need to shake this errancy
so we don’t look like fools.”

“But I was sure I had it right,”
dumbfounded Molly wails.
Editor sighs and insists again
on accurate details.

“Our readers are nit-picking,”
young Thompson quickly states.
Editor growls. “Get it right or else
your job here terminates.”

“From now on I’ll be checking
on every bit of copy;
your pages will be cremated
if you hand in anything sloppy.”

“No apostrophic laxity
permissible henceforth
or there will be pecuniary
punishment in store.”

Ragtag Daily Prompt: SERIOUS
Fandango’s FOWC: STUDY and DUMBFOUNDED
Word of the Day: CREMATE
M-W’s Word of the Day: PECUNIARY

Dog’s Delight

Image by Dave Francis — Pixabay
Oh wow! Is that a cat?
That clump of fur over there -- 
that long tail I see twitching?
Can I chase it? Huh, Master?
Just for a minute? Oh, heaven!
Please say I can, Master.

Cats are so much fun to chase –
better yet if they go up a tree.
I keep them up there ever so long
glaring and squabbling,
but terrified to come down.
Oh joy! Do I ever love that!
Bark, bark, bark – nya nya nya.
Disgusting, hissy things!

Say yes, Master, let me go!
I'll chase that cat clear into
the next valley. Or if it leaps
on the fence I'll hurl myself at it
with my most ferocious growls.
Oh, wow! Will that ever be fun!
Can I, huh? Can I?
Master, please let me chase it!

Awww… It disappeared.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: WOW!
Word of the Day: SQUABBLE
Your Daily Word Prompt: FEROCIOUS

The Lessons of History

FOR GOODNESS SAKE, READ HISTORY (Part One)

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: FURY
Word of the Day prompt: SUSTAIN
Fandango’s One-Word Challenge: EULOGY

Fury, Rage, and Free Press

Sue over at Crooked Creek has done reports on the new books about Donald Trump: TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH written by his niece, Mary L. Trump, and the other, RAGE, by Bob Woodward. I think Sue has done a great job of introducing the books lightly and fairly, without getting into personal opinions about the contents.

Stickler for accuracy that I am, I do object to the subtitle “…the world’s most dangerous man.” It sounds so sensational. No doubt he is one of the most powerful men on the planet but when I think of some dictators, money men, heads of organized crime and drug lords, I’m not so sure who should receive that title. But I’ll leave that where it is.

When I read these book reviews, my thought was: at least we live in a world of free speech. People have compared Donald Trump to Hitler, but there’s so much difference. Read about that history! If any writer wrote a news story calling Hitler a megalomaniac or tried to publish a book about Adolf Hitler, the most dangerous man on the planet (which he was, in his day) the journalist or author would have disappeared in the night and never been heard from again.

I have a book here written by a woman who was a girl in Nazi Germany. Her father, a loyal army officer who had serious misgivings about the whole regime, quietly got involved in a “Schindler’s List” type arrangement with a factory owner. When this was discovered he was arrested and secretly executed. Trump may not respond well to criticism but I’m not hearing anything about vocal Democrats being rounded up and quietly disposed of.

“The Worst Ever” Usually Means “I Haven’t Heard of Anything Else”

We live in a world of sensational superlatives. The media delights in them. “The worst pandemic in history”; “the biggest, the worse, the most devastating storm” ever. Climatic conditions like fires, droughts, hurricanes, are “the most calamitous,” “unsurvivable” and “portents of much worse to come.” Political races may be called “the most contentious” or “the most fateful decision ever.”

It’s rather thrilling to believe we actually live in an era of the worst ever. These days we seem to be surrounded by news and Facebook and Twitter working to sustain panic and fury. Many people are chanting some eulogy for the West — or America. I can’t predict whether things will get worse or better, but I do believe it would be great if more people were studying history.

Speaking of which, I’ve just started reading PROHIBITION: Thirteen Years that Changed America, by Edward Behr. Fascinating era!

Image by MabelAmber — Pixabay

Word Prompts Whirl

Good morning everyone!

I woke up and looked at the clock, which read 7:01. After a moment’s pondering, I rolled out of bed, got to my feet, and enjoyed a moment of gratitude because I CAN get up and stand on my feet. I CAN move around. When you’ve worked in a nursing home as I have, and seen people who lie in bed for months and even years, you do appreciate the ability to move around.

I recall a time when I was twenty-something. I’d just woken up and was pondering rather ungratefully how life wasn’t going well for us. My husband had to give up his job as a grain buyer because of allergies; at that time he was taking odd jobs with farmers to keep us afloat. We could hardly pay bills; we were living upstairs in his parents’ home. No, our life just didn’t look very rosy at that moment with us being so broke. Then I got out of bed and looked out the window, across the houses and tree tops of Moose Jaw, and the thought came to me, “You have something wonderful. You can see.”

Remember that old poem about the person who was feeling envious until she met a lad who was blind. The last line being, “Oh, Lord, forgive me when I whine. I have two eyes; the world is mine.” Not that my gratitude should be based on what others don’t have and can’t do, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to count your physical blessings. Mr Google tells me you can read the poem here.

Anyway, I headed for the kitchen for my morning coffee, my thoughts still flitting around my experiences in the nursing home. Breakfast: I can do it. I can fix myself, and enjoy, cereal, toast an egg. I recall how we’d feed those folks mush because they couldn’t swallow anything solid. Thank you, God for the ability to move, to swallow, to see – even if the season’s changing in a way I don’t appreciate.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: FRUSTRATION. Not at all this morning, thankfully. As I was saying, I’m feeling grateful rather than frustrated at all at the start of this new day – except maybe by the fact that the week has flown by so fast. Being retired, I can’t say like many others are morning, “Thank God it’s Friday!” But I will say a special thanks to you bloggers who supply us with new writing prompts every day. 🙂

Your Daily Word Prompt: PERFIDIOUS. Ah! This weather. This morning I opened the front door, looked out and took note of my coleus plant in a pot on the deck. Yesterday when I watered it, this plant had lush green leaves, swirled with appealing red tones as coleus are. This morning it’s limp and solid purple. Yesterday when the sun was shining brightly and the evening was fairly mild, I didn’t even think about frost. I have been taking in some nights so it wouldn’t freeze, but wasn’t thinking of frost last night. “Haha,” said the perfidious temperature as it dipped down and dealt my coleus a death blow.

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge: RECONCILE. Yes, I need to reconcile myself to the idea that autumn is here. The leaves are going to fall – in fact the maples have shed a lot already – and my plants are going to freeze. I need to get outside and do some fall clean-up before the snow flies. And the snow will fly, though it’s been so dry we may not get a lot. Back in 1976 we had a really dry fall here on the prairie and got no snow to speak of until February.

Word of the Day: AGASTOPIA. I saw this and wondered, what on earth is that? Neither Lexico nor Merriam-Webster can help me out. According to the prompter, this word means “The visual enjoyment of the appearance of a specific physical aspect of another person.” It can have a sensual context.

When we lived in Montréal I had this friend, a delightful person, with a real weakness for colours and textures. Today we’d call her “bipolar”; back then it was “manic-depressive”; at any rate, she was apt to react more strongly than most of us to visual or textural stimulus. Walking through a mall with her one day I had to be patient, as she’d see some fabric that excited her and she’d have to stop and handle it. A fur vest – she just had to rub it.

She told this story on herself: she was riding home on the subway one day when a man sat in front of her. Well, he had the thickest, darkest, most appealing mop of hair. She was fascinated and tried to restrain herself, but finally she couldn’t anymore. She reached out and buried her fingers in it as she exclaimed, “You have beautiful hair!” I gather he was surprised, but thankfully more flattered than alarmed. He just said – perhaps with a bit of uncertainty, “Thank you.” But she was such a cheery, likeable person that he didn’t take offense.

Lastly, Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day this morning is DELVE. I’ve been delving into Bible prophecy – the different ideas that have been embraced by Christians – and plan to post an article on premillennialism and dispensationalism later today. What huge words, eh? The first word means “before the thousand years” and the second refers to ages or eras.

I want to say a hearty thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read this ramble of mine. But now it’s 10:30 and I’ve journalled enough. I’d better get on with some real work of the day. I hope you all have a great weakened weekend. (English is so much fun! )

The Lost Cabbage Leaves

And now, dear readers, here’s a story that’s 100% silly. When I opened my e-mail first thing this morning I saw word prompts from several sites, plus a big one from Merriam-Webster giving their Word of the Day and their Words of interest this week. So I’ve decided to write a tale incorporating all these words:

From M-W: Docile, Joke, Manipulate, Synonym, Soup, Besot, Hair-trigger
From Word of the Day: Dilatory; from Your Daily Word: Loyal,
From Ragtag Daily Prompt: Again, and from Fandango (FOWC): Excuse
And because the image of a snail on a rock popped into my head…
this one is from Pixabay, shared by photographer Carpi23auto.

So now I give you…

“The Saga of the Snail Siblings”

Sally snail made her way over the rock in a dilatory manner.

“You’re such a dawdler!” her brother Sangster called from the ground below. “Why did you have to go over that dumb rock, anyway? Honestly, the snow will be blowing by the time you get over to the cabbages. You’ll miss munching all those delicious leaves.”

Another brother, Sander, added his reproach. “Yeah. They’ll all be chopped up and in the soup before you get halfway across the garden.”

“Well, there’s more to life than cabbage leaves,” Sally told them as she slid off the rock. She joined her sister Salvena who’d opted to go around the rock and had found a few discarded green beans near the base.

“Just ignore them, Sally.” Salvena, ever loyal to her sister, offered to share her find. “Help me eat this green bean. It’s a bit limp, but still lots of flavor.” She nibbled on an end in her careful way.

Sander hooted. “Beans are blah! That’s just an excuse for quitting. There’s nothing like a cabbage leaf for flavor.” He started off again toward the cabbage heads that so besotted him.

“Race you,” Sangster shouted at him.

“Those guys racing. That’s such a joke,” Sally muttered to her sister. “Well, I’m not going to let them manipulate me into rushing around, getting my lovely shell muddy. Or have those flea beetles jumping on my head.”

“Oh, I hate those fleas! That’s why I never go near the radish row,” Salvena told her. “They have such hair-trigger paranoia. Anything sets them off and they spring willy-nilly all over. Next thing you have one or two riding on your antenna.” Salvena shuddered. A docile creature by nature, she eschewed sudden or erratic movement.

“A flea on your antenna is like red ant on your foot. A nuisance you want to get rid of as soon as you can.”

“That’s a really good synonym, Sally.” Salvena turned her eyes toward the cabbage patch. “It looks like the boys have almost made it.” Then she gasped. “Oh no! One of those monsters! Oh, I do hope the boys will be safe.”

“It’s picking them up,” Sally exclaimed. The two sisters watched as the monster flung their brothers out of the garden. Sander and Sangster flew over their heads and landed in the grass just beyond the onion row.

Ten minutes later the boys came crawling out of the grass, back to the rock where their sisters were still working on the beans.

“Maybe we’ll join you after all,” Sangster said. “Though I’m still feeling pretty dizzy. I’ve never moved so fast in my life! I used to think it would be fun to be a bird, but not anymore!” Sangster wiggled his antenna to test them.

“You poor things.” Kind-hearted Sally moved over to give her brothers some space. “So much for the cabbage leaves, eh?”

“Yeah. Guess we can’t always have our first choice. But this is okay,” Sander admitted, chomping into the fat bean.