The abundance of rain yesterday has provided waterfalls in the Giant City Creeks. I can literally sit and watch the water cascading over the old sandstone rocks and hear its music for hours. A simple life is a beautiful life. The more I look…the more I see. Living in the moment is a powerful illumination of our miracle.
‘We need to help our town,’ Billy B. mused as he drank the dark and rich coffee from the electric percolator. ‘Eldorado is a gift and often I either do not see its potential or I choose to ignore it,’ he continued. ‘We could start with re-erecting the sign at the entrance of Eldorado that said, ‘Home of 5,000 friendly people and One Ole Sore Head,’ Chet suggested. ‘I have always believed that we should embrace our roots and not try to be Carbondale or Champaign but taut our lustrous heritage, Jane offered. ‘We have a rich history of Coal Mining and our Eldorado High School sports teams are renown,’ Neva J. mused. ‘Our education system has some of the finest teachers in Little Egypt…and our Town And Country Days are the envy of our region,’ Chet said with a smile. ‘Halloween is special in our town and there is always a mysterious event that occurs that none of us can explain,’ Daryl said. ‘I have an idea…why not have Halloween in January…somewhat like Christmas in July,’ Neva J. postulated with a wicked laugh!
The Orpheum Theatre was up for the novel idea of Halloween in July and promoted it both in the Eldorado Daily Journal as well as the Southern Illinoisian Newspapers. It soon seemed by the plethora of responses that our group received that this particular idea was welcome by many Southern Illinois residents. After all, it was original! So Saturday, January 21st was designated as the Winter Halloween Spectacular. It was a good day for the event as Winter was a third over and people wanted to get out of the house. The Orpheum was showing a triple feature of; Frankenstein and Dracula and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. At the last minute the Bride Of Frankenstein was added in place of the Creature From The Black Lagoon…to preserve continuity. There was bobbing for apples outside Muckley’s Ben Franklin Dime Store and Hot Cider…which many remembered from Christmas. The kids and adults alike broke out their Halloween Costumes that had not been in storage long. The guest of honor would be a Houdini portrayer. He was said to be almost as good as the original Houdini and many believed that it was indeed Houdini…returned from the grave.
Houdini had a stage in the Town Square and seemed oblivious to the fact that the temperature was 20 degrees. He was dressed in swim trunks and nothing else as he was lowered into a humongous bottle that was filled to the top with water…and he was lowered with both his feet and hand shackled and he was upside down. Now Houdini had spent his life debunking life after death and the charlatans who proposed the theory such as seances and other sundry methods of giving false hope to the departed’s loved ones. After his death, his wife held a yearly seance in an attempt to contact her departed husband if indeed there was life after death. He had told her that he would do his best to contact her if he could. ‘The final Houdini seance took place on October 31, 1936, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, at 8:30 p.m. Bess was accompanied by her ‘manager’ (and lover) Edward Saint. The event proved unsuccessful, and at the end of the recording, Bess solemnly states, ‘Yes. Houdini did not come through.’
The Houdini portrayer struggled and wrestled with his padlocked chains and shackled legs. The crowd of five thousand gasped and some fainted as it appeared that all was lost for the poor actor…when suddenly he freed himself and fell out of the watery grave…gasping for air. There beside Houdini was an etheral figure of a little non-descript woman…smiling.
‘Bess…we did it again…’
Cold rain is falling today. I noticed it profoundly when while in the woods I began to shiver. I sat in the Subaru for a while and engaged the steering wheel heater and held it eagerly. As I often do I thought of what it is like to be homeless in a cold rain. I noticed with some interest that some politicians are saying that they desire equal opportunities for all of our people…but not equal outcomes. That sounds logical on its face, doesn’t it? The first sentence is the one that is problematic. Our country does not afford the equal opportunity. Or as Dr. Margtin Luther King said it is hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps…if you do not have any boots.
Cold commands all of my attention when I am feeling its bitter wrath. Hunger tends to have the same effect on me. I vividly remember what it feels like to not be hungry because I missed a meal…but the hunger that comes from missing several and wondering where I could find the next one.
I downloaded the most popular camera application in 2020. It is called 1998 and replicates what photos looked like before our smartphones. 1998 Camera even time stamps each photo with the date of the photo but instead of the year it replaces it with 1998. Light streaks are built into the finished photo. The granular image is part of the package. While reading the same article that led me to the Retro 1998 Camera there was also a surprising statistic that the current generation is returning to the flip phones of the 90s. They eschew the glitz and glamour of the IPhones and desire the simplicity that the Flip Phone affords.
We are searching for real. Simpler times are our heart’s desire. Information is at our fingertips…but much of it is damaging. Our minds are captivated and captive by the tiny screen.
Yet…the homeless have much more serious and immediate concerns. Forgotten people they are. What if God tells us that in our next life…we will be homeless…and that he believes in equal opportunity…not equal outcomes?
Just before Christmas it was below zero degrees and the chill factor was 20 and more below zero. I thought that we were indeed going to have a hard winter. This morning it is in the 50s and the forecast is to be near 60 in temperature. I do not know if there is a name for it but I would term our environment an early spring. I grew up in Southern Illinois and the old folks always said that if you did not like the weather just stick around a few hours and it will change. Now that was the truth as we certainly are accustomed to living through four distinct seasons each year…and that is nice. However, the weather changes are much more pronounced than when I was a child.
I have created a new custom of visiting the woods on almost a daily basis since this past summer. I watched the leaves turn from green to multicolored and then to brown and fall onto the earth. I assumed that I would cease my woods walks in December due to it typically being a winter month for our region. Now I did not traverse the State Park on the zero days…but that is about the only ones that I have missed. I enjoy going in the rain…I like rain…rain is soothing and peaceful and promotes reflection.
MJ and I have talked about renting a condo in Florida for a month in the winter…but it will not be necessary while we are experiencing Florida weather in Little Egypt. I was reading with pleasure a posting from a good friend who commented that she had been walking for health for 20 years. The posting caused me to reflect on how long that I have been doing the same. Forty years and counting is what I came up with.
The Bizzard of 78′ was fierce. The roads were gone and driving anywhere was akin to driving through a field. I was sparking MJ and doing my dead-level best to impress her with my mature demeanor and witty repartee. Her little Maverick car was buried as well as the driveway where it was parked in. Off I trekked to her home with my warmest clothes on and weighing 169 pounds. Many people admonished me to gain some weight…which I have not been so admonished for many years. Shovel… I did it for several hours. MJ wanted me to come in and rest and drink a not cup of Coco…but I would not be deterred until I had accomplished my mission. Finally, the great Blizzard of 78′ Shovel was completed and I enjoyed the Hot Coco and of course, my Bride to be smiling at me and admiring my exploits…made it all worthwhile.
‘Did you see Mr. Spock cause that Klingon to faint just by putting his hand on his shoulder,’ Chet asked Billy B.? ‘I think that ability to incapacitate an enemy is fascinating and logical,’ Billy B. answered in his best Mr. Spock imitation. ‘Star Trek is my favorite show and I especially like Lieutenant Uhura,’ Jane said. ‘Mr. Spock is my favorite character and I want to emulate him…he always seeks the logical and that is what I think we humans should do rather than be controlled by our emotions,’ Billy B. postulated with a Spockian Wise Gaze. ‘It seems to me that Star Trek is a prophetic look into the future…we have already sent men to the moon…space exploration is next,’ Neva J. laughed as she sipped her Merlot. ‘Edgar Cayce…The Sleeping Prophet foretold many of the mysteries of space,’ Neva J. continued. ‘Why don’t we see if my magic mirror still works and ascertain if we can enjoy a little space travel,’ Neva J. asked with a wine giggle? ‘Look there is the Milky Way and the universe beyond it,’ Chet said. ‘Edgar says for us to walk through the mirror if we want to explore space,’ Jane noted.
‘It is interesting to find you Eldoradoians here on Vulcan,’ said Mr. Spock. ‘Did you come through Edgar Cayces’ mirror portal,’ he continued? ‘We not only came through Neva J.s’ magic mirror but you were our inspiration to do so…Mr. Spock,’ Chet replied. ‘Well first we must indulge in the Vulcan Mind Meld for me to discover what are your motives for appearing on Vulcan…we have been at war with the Klingons for two Millenium…and we can not be too careful,’ explained Spock. ‘You are of good and logical motives…what can I do for you humans from the ancient town of Eldorado…you do realize that Eldorado existed a thousand years ago and we have studied your history and the lessons of your town,’ Spock explained. ‘Mr. Spock, we come from the 1960s, and we seek an understanding of our future and the future of our town and our planet…the Earth,’ said Billy B. ‘Logic will forecast the future for you good Eldoradians….humans continued to mistrust each other and fight each other and even kill each other…this leads to the destruction of the species,’ Spock said with sadness. ‘Laughter was replaced with tears and joy with sorrow…hope with despair and peace with chaos…for the many of your race…of which I am a partial member,’ Spock said with a tear in his eye. ‘The beauty that was Eldorado faded for lack of interest…much as what you folks call the church did also,’ he continued.
‘What can we do Mr. Spock, to slow or halt the disintegration of our towns and our human species,’ Chet beseeched. ‘It may sound strange for a half-Vulcan to say…love each other…love your fellow man and woman like you love yourselves…this is what keeps towns and societies and species alive,’ Spock said as he turned and walked away from Neva J. and Billy B. and Jane and Chet.
‘Oh my goodness…I must have fallen asleep…and I so wanted to hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech in Washington,’ said Neva J. ‘It was great and he spoke of having a Dream…,’ Chet said…
Billy B. thought about age. It creeps up on you in the night while you are sleeping. It lines your face and greys your hair while you have the best of times and think of everything else but age. You walked two miles than four and more and thought little of it. Neva J. made Billy B. bacon for bacon sandwiches before he went to eighth grade and high school. That is about the time he began drinking strong coffee. She made it at 5:00 am and by the time Billy B. poured the first cup…the coffee could walk to school with him. Billy B. had a little black and white television in his bedroom. You could plug earphones into it and listen late into the night…until the test pattern came on…that is. He felt like the master of the universe as he sat in bed and watched Johnny Carson and no one else could hear.
Billy B. had a little pool table. It came from, Western Auto and was a Christmas gift. There were little pool cues and even chalk. He just could set it up in his bedroom and with the Billiards game progressing and the black and white TV playing…well think of Frank Costanza and Kramer on Seinfeld.
Winter was movie time at the Orpheum Theatre. But then again…all seasons of the year were movie time at the Orpheum. Billy B. and Chet sat through three showings of Barbarella with Jane Fonda…they were Sci-Fi fans. The Show was the biggest game in town. There was The Show and Dairy Queen and later Billy B. discovered Billard Hall. Dennis W. introduced him to the Pool Hall. The Pool Hall had a lot of men and some women who were busy smoking and the smell of liquor was in the air…although Eldorado was a Dry Town. Flasks I assume. Billy B. warmed to the idea of playing pool on a full-size table. Often he and Dennis W. would visit the Billard Palace after sharing a pack of Marlboro cigarettes that they purchased at the Dairy Queen. The Marlboro’s came with twenty cigarettes to the pack and that equaled ten each for the almost men. They were secret smokers and thus they walked down the railroad track and feverishly and furtively smoked the cigarettes as fast as they could puff. It looked a bit like the smoke that was coming from the locomotive that was barrelling towards them on the track…and they were cavalierly on the train trestle. Now the Train Tressel was about twenty feet above the ground and it was much too far to jump. So they ran and puffed and ran some more. Finally, they looked behind them and discovered that the Locomotive had taken a side track and they were not in danger. Talk about something that will make you want to shoot pool! The stories that were swapped that day at the Billard House were extraordinary…and some of them were true…
Lanny W. mentioned that Billy B. and Chet and Dennis his brother should visit the Spillway. Now Billy B. was accustomed to swimming at Pounds Hollow every summer but this was only spring and still a bit chilly. Lanny W. said that it would be exciting and that he would bring some Peppermint Schnapps that was left over from Christmas. Chet said let’s do it and so they did. Lanny W. was older than the rest of the explorers and had his own car. They drove out to the Spillway which was hidden in some woods. The Schnapps tasted like a peppermint stick. Billy B. and Chet kept sipping from the colorful bottle. The more that they sipped the better that they felt. It seemed that they had a revelation regarding the adult world and its’ mystery. They considered that they too would be driving soon and life was beckoning them to adventure. There was the Spillway and Billy B. lept from the car with a mouthful of Peppermint Bliss and started to scale the glass slick stone wall of the waterfall. He was kissing the wet stone before he realized that he had fallen and his upper lip was split open…and he has the scar to this day.
The church was a blessing! Inspired singing and lovely piano…and the added extra of the Spirit of God. I left the sanctuary feeling refreshed and renewed. I have often pondered the difference that God’s anointing has on a worship service. ‘He asked me, ‘Son of man can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone know,’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.’ Ezekiel 37
Words are simply words…until God makes them real to our hearts. It often is not in the rushing wind or the clap of thunder or the faux manifestation of excitement…but perhaps a still small voice. Indeed we are ethereal souls walking around in clay huts. Virtually all of the joys of life involve a quickening of our spirits. Mother Teresa ministered to the lepers and forgotten of India for many years and through arduous labor…but the Spirit of God fueled her journey.
The eyes of a child on Christmas morning are the eyes of wonder and mystery and hope. The eyes of the person in hospice who counts the days of their earthly path…are the eyes of amazement at how their walk back to Jerusalem was enjoyed with their Guardian Angel beside them.
Birds sing for a reason…they are enraptured with the Secret of God.
When we, ‘speak with the tounges of men and angels and yet have not charity…the Bible tells us…we are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.’ But when those same words come from love…they are a balm of Gilead.
Have you ever been lost for words and suddenly they come to you…and when you say them you can see the transformation in the person that you are talking with? Inspiration comes quietly and on little cats’ feet. It comes to the humble and the poor and to those who know that they do not have the skills to make a difference…without God’s Spirit.
‘Well, it is entirely too cold to collect acorns this afternoon, Elbert said. ‘I am used to 60 degrees and a light breeze and today it is in the ’20s,’ he continued. ‘Elbert…you know that we need to polish the silver tea set that my mother gave us and then attempted to call back to her possession,’ Evangeline noted. ‘It seems like yesterday that the giants were all over the forest and we had to be careful to not get stepped on,’ Elbert bemoaned. ‘And they all had a camera and they roasted their hot dogs and drank a lot of beer,’ Eskell noted. ‘I had a plentiful amount of the beer that they left behind in their half-consumed beer cans…I was in good spirits all through the summer and fall,’ Elois laughed. ‘I was afraid to take Bruiser out to do his business and had to be on the lookout for their humongous feet…at least you could hear them coming a mile away,’ Eskell smiled. ‘As usual, the humans are not aware of our existence as they never look down and certainly do not focus on their environment,’ Evangeline said. ‘A little girl picked me up one day and looked at me with her saucer eyes for some time…and then she set me down under a leaf and ran off to enjoy her family picnic,’ Eskell said. ‘I almost peed my pants, he proclaimed!
Do you remember our days in Eldorado…when we lived in the Orpheum Theatre,’ Elbert asked his family? Nothing could stop us then…we had all of the popcorn that we could eat and Coca-Cola and our fill of free movies,’ he continued to reminisce. ‘It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter and only the occasional mouse to share our food with,’ Evangeline laughed. ‘I remember when Billy B. and Neva J. and Jane and Debbie and Chet took us home with them for Christmas and we had such fun,’ Elois said with a wistful gaze. ‘Winter was fun at Neva J.’s and Billy B.’s house…they had Neva J.’s Famous Coffee Cake and Roast Beast and Merlot to drink…and homemade divinity too,’ Elbert reminisced. ‘Neva J. had purchased us some doll’s beds from a Doll House Factory and we slept in the New Room which was resplendent in red and black. ‘I was so startled when on the first morning of our stay with them…Neva J. hollered for us to, ‘Hit the deck your rubbernecks,’ said Eskell.
‘I miss Eldorado…Neva J. and Billy B. believed in us…and thus they saw us…we were as real to them as we are to each other,’ Evangeline commented in little more than a whisper. ‘I remember Billy B.’s good friend Steve coming each Christmas…he joked with me and called me, Little Man, and he said that he was coming to the woods when we returned home to visit,’ Eskell said with a sigh.
‘We are a bit hidden from the humans…don’t you think, Elbert asked? ‘Yes, not everyone has time for Gnomes…
I availed myself of the golden opportunity to travel to Eldorado to finish my commitment to taking photos in my second hometown… of places that might be fun to determine where they were located in the town. The 62 degrees was springlike and I knew that the opportunity for such warm weather in January in Little Egypt would be fleeting. Although it has been almost 50 years since I lived in the City of Gold…I feel perfectly at home each time that I am there. I have lost track of the number of times I have traveled to my Town but I think it is nearing 20 visits since the winter of 2022. The Christmas decorations were down…and I missed them. I am a Christmas All Year Round sort of guy.
I discovered the beautiful mural painted by Zettie Shults of ‘The coal mining industry of former years.’ Her son Steve told me of his mother being the mural painter. Eldorado has several murals throughout the town but none has moved me more than Ms. Shult’s work of art.
Coal mining is interwoven into the fabric of Eldorado. I wanted to get a job in the Coal Mines as a lad and endeavored to do so once I graduated high school. A Personnel Manager at Sahara Coal Mines discouraged me from doing so when he showed me a stack of applications about four feet tall.
As I walked the Eldorado streets and byways I was transported back to my youth. I remembered what I was thinking as a boy in the city. My aspirations and goals and dreams took me a few miles away to Carbondale and a career at Southern Illinois University. It gives me great joy when some of my former classmates enjoy the photos that I post on Facebook. When I am in Eldorado I am where it all began for us.
Eldorado and Southern Illinois has so much to offer to tourists and guests that are hungry for the nearly lost beauty of small-town life. We are all seeking a more peaceful and calmer and holistic existence. Reflection and time to think and ponder the great questions of our existence…are provided in Eldorado.
Success and fame and fortune have their own pitfalls. Accession is what we desire. More money and responsibility and people who know us and see us and listen to our musings. Indeed all of those gifts have their place…but they are not the crux of our happiness. Happiness can be found in the streets of Eldorado and the memories that are seamless in the life of a 65-year-old…
We live in a miracle and tend to forget this fact due to our having experienced a few short years of the mysterious event. The Sun rises in the east and sets in the west…and we say, ‘I have seen sunrises and sunsets before.’ Christmas comes with all of its joy and holiday pleasure and we think…’I have experienced better Christmases.’ We gain a friend…and then we lose them…and we plan on getting another. We listen to mom and dad talk in their quaint colloquial manner…and we forecast the next statement that will come out of their mouth…then their mouth is silenced and we so much would like to hear their stories…one more time. Next year we will take a trip to Europe…or we will travel to Maine to see the leaves change or we will read more and write and hike through the woods…
Identity is our core reason for living. One of us is the political leader…while the other is a leader in Academia. Another of us has given our life to the company or the university or the church…when that falls away…we have no foundation…no frame of reference for our existence.
Right and wrong are important. For many of us, God is a God of Wrath and Judgment and Furry for the evil doers…of course, we are not the Evil Doers…it is those malcontents over the fence who are guilty. Conservative is right…don’t you know…those who are not conservative are standing on the gaping maw of Hell. Liberal is right…don’t you know…and the uneducated among us and the unwashed do not have a valid reason for feeling unloved and unwanted and unseen by the powerful and the political elites and the Academy…
The brown dried leaves crunched under the feet of Billy B. He had watched almost daily the transformation of the green leaves to vibrant colors and then to brown and then to cascade to the ground. Billy B. loved the woods! He loved the solitude of the surroundings. He enjoyed hearing the woodpecker tap…tap…tap on the trees. He loved the constant changing of the clouds. Billy B. loved the movement of the Sun. After the rain…the dry creeks were full of moving water. The sound that they made was luxurious.
Christmas was two weeks ago yesterday. Our hearts were full and our spirits light. The possibilities of the New Year were endless. They still are! Or as it has often been said, ‘Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.’ I watched a fascinating movie entitled The Menu. Needless to say, it was a wonderful example of groupthink. Many of us are waiting for someone to reveal to us the Secret of our existence on this mortal coil. We are a bit hesitant to look to the left or the right but stay focused on our leader…at all costs. I prefer the rebel. I love the person who dances to the toon of their own drummer!
At times during my life I have had the opportunity to observe the Wizard Of Oz…behind the curtain. It is not a pretty site but it is a bit informative. Ray Bradbury said, ‘If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never go into business because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.’
I identify with the intrepid traveler who takes the fork in the road…that no one is taking. The person who wears a Stetson or a Bowler hat…when everyone else is wearing a ball cap. The person who is a writer because they write…not because they desire to make money from the enterprise.
Magical is where we live. The mystery is our every breath. Unique we are among all of the untold billions that have populated this Blue Orb. Happiness is following our dreams. Failure can be fun and a marker for what not to do the next time.