Saturday, May 21, 2016

Food for Thought

If only I would be hungry for foods I once longed for : for the wholesomeness I remembered, for the pleasantness of a meal long stuck in my brain, now all just memories, more imagination than reality. These days most things I eat taste bland, not tasty : just salty, sweet, or vinegary. Once, I lived to eat ; now, I eat to remain alive.

Thinking back to my father's mother, Wee Anne, a Scot, relocated from Glasgow, Scotland to Yonkers, NY, then to Houck Lane near Harmonyville, Chester County. It's been some sixty-five years since I last tasted her treacle scones, made with liberal amounts of molasses in the batter and then spread over the baked bun, with loving care. Treacle scones and fresh brewed tea were staples of Sunday evenings together : grandchildren, parents, and grandparents.

During my teen and preteen years I remember Sunday mornings because of a distinctive smell. Maybe once a month, Dad would urge Mom to make Kippered Herrings. These dried fish were put up in distinctive cans, sort of oval and low, from Great Britain/Scotland, packed in oil by the Cross and Blackwell brand, I think. Cooking was quite different, though ! The odd shaped, low height can was placed in a pan with an inch or so of water just to the top of the can and the water was brought to a boil. When the fish in oil inside the can was thought fully heated the can was removed from the pan and opened. Wow, what a smell, distinctive and lingering, once smelt, never forgotten. Eating was eventful but, not something you'd want to do on a daily basis, since it stuck so indelible in smell and taste to my memory.

To counter the herring was a desert I really enjoyed, Plum Pudding. Again, put up in a distinctive can by the same label from England/Scotland, Cross&Blackwell, I believe. In a tapered can was a dark concoction of, I guess, plums, raisins, and cake like batter laced with an array of spices. Again the container was immersed in a very hot water bath for heating up its contents before opening the can. Upon opening, the conical desert was center plated for cutting. Certainly the smell was distinctive and pungent, the taste, earthy and hardy. One other thing stood out, which were the accompanying sauces : one was a white sauce, basically a vanilla sauce, that countered the pudding's earthiness. The other, a lemon based heavy sauce, which lingers with me even to today.

I've written over the years about "haggis" and the Robert Burns' birthday dinners complete with haggis, cock a leaky soup, boiled tatters, and a wee dram of Highland elixir. Seems, it's tough to breed out of offspring the tug of smells and tastes found in cooking styles
common to the homeland. Eventually we all become homogenized, sadly.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, May 16, 2016

May Day ! May Day !! May Day !!!

Spring has morphed into Fall ; Summer is but a question mark ; Winter  is figured to be frigid, deep down, to the bone. I write, anymore, like a pessimist when for years I've always been an optimist.

It could be my age since I've pushed past eighty-one and every chill, no matter the season, runs right up my spine. But lately, all chills emanate from my hands to somewhere else in my body like a chain reaction.

My hands were once my strong suit, they could do most anything I asked of them. Essentially, my occupation was that resembling most farmers, hand tools were just arm extensions with lifting heavy and grasping tight commonplace.

Now I look at my knurled, ghostlike hands deeply wrinkled and permanently disfigured and wonder where my youthful hands  have gone ? I guess, their vitality went years ago, left in the ground they turned over or on the implements that required rock hard hands to control.

Aging seems a process which adds up spent years and displays these years on the surface of bodies displayed in retirement homes becoming more numerous each year.

Ronald C Downie

Friday, May 6, 2016

Our Band of Brothers

Yesterday we lost another - Linwood Bieler - who passed from this Earth and now enters into the realm of our memory.

Linwood was tall, athletic, and quite a handsome man who had many accomplishments during his lifetime : his children, his athletics, his employment, his educational endeavors.

Lin left three adult children, two girls and a boy, each with their own children, his grandchildren. Linwood lost his father to the Second World War when he was but a child, thereby, Lin did not get to know his father very well. Linwood was very proud of his offspring who are all professionals in their adult lives.

Athletically, Lin was a member, with many young men his age who played winning baseball, and who are now inshrined in Cooperstown's Baseball Hall Of Fame, for their record of winning fifty plus games in a row. When a senior in high school he played end on Pottstown High School's football team which won the league's championship. An avid golfer, Lin spent quality time on golf courses
both playing and working for the course.

Lin retired from Philco Ford located in the Lansdale area after over 35 years in management. He was always respected and well liked at his employment there.

One of the more impressive episodes of Lin's young life could be found in his dogged determination to get his degree from Ursinus College. Many get degrees from colleges but, getting a degree from a college by only going to "Night School", takes some superhuman effort. Try raising a family, purchasing a home, working full time while going to school a couple nights a week for year after year and you can imagine the stressful implications this implies. Kudos ! to you Mr. Linwood Bieler !

Now, into the Sprit World that memory flows through, we will experience our brother Linwood's existence on Earth from short jolts of expression; like, " Yea, that's what Lin'y would have said." Or, " Lin would have really liked that."

The final vestige of life is that of memory, all that that came before, no matter that no one remembers the fine points of each occurrence but, hopefully, someone who can put a sense of feeling behind occurrences. Ultimately life comes down to feelings not accumulations. We will all enter the Spirit World with little except our bodies and whatever vibes flow with us in some other medium.

May He Rest In Peace !
With Brotherly Love,
Jack Bechtel & Ron Downie

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Women's Card

Maybe it's beyond my comprehension to understand the concept of the "Women's Card" as used in this political climate. You see, games of cards have always been contests between men, as shown explicitly by cowboy movies in their heydays. Mavericks have existed since time began and many deftly used the slight of hand in dealing cards at games of chance.

Mr. Trump charged Mrs. Clinton of using the "Women's Card" as the only asset she has in her arsenal to challenge him. Donald used "Women's Card" in a very derogatory way, kind of like, disparaging the roll of women in the history of the World.

To my knowledge, there has never been a male or female born that hadn't come out of a women's body. Not, from time immortal, has one human developed without beginning life in the nurturing fluids found in a female's uterus.

This, my friends, is quite a card to play; yes, call it the ultimate "trump" card in the game called life. Donald can denigrate women all he wants too, but females in The United States are beginning to undo the stereotypes tying them down far too long.

Not only in life bearing are women better - the only choice - females exhibit characteristics : of understanding complex problems, of realizing compromise when advantageous, of balancing budgets in stressful times, and, among many more, of having a sense for honesty.

All you women out there, please remember, by sheer numbers you are  the the majority of our national electorate and, if you exercise your vote, you can change the way men appreciate you. Look at the mess that men have allowed our World to corrode into.

Ronald C. Downie

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Last Supper

Right here on Facebook I learned of a way to offer the Last Supper to some unwanted guests. You know the kind who arrive without a phone call and barge right in impervious to your thoughts. Indignant as it seems, these guests can care less of what you think and, upon arrival, they don't make any inclination they'll leave in a timely manner.

I guess because they're unaccompanied by uncles, "ants" of all sizes come as these unwanted guests. Tinny, tiny ones are the worst but, I guess, the big buggers are the worst offenders at doing physical  harm. They arrive at our house early to mid-spring by showing up in the kitchen and in an adjoining bathroom which shares a common wall. Each year they arrive, we battle them, they finally disappear, I suppose, to their ancestral home outside in the environment.

This year, after reading about ant control on Facebook, we've seem to have interrupted the ants life style a little earlier. Maybe, by way of how ants interact between each other when they meet. We're told, ants upon greeting each other exchange food buy way of something like a kiss transferring tiny bits of food each time. This process continues right up the line until finally getting to the Queen who remains relatively stationary in the ant hill colony producing fertile eggs in voluminous quantities.

Control what's in the food ants eat and you have a chance to control ant population. Dissolve 6 parts of granular sugar in a cup of warm water, to this add 6 parts (an equal amount) of boric acid, to this add a small amount of honey and mix until all dissolved and suspended in the solution. Place solution in a spray bottle and spray solution in inconspicuous places preferably in trails frequently traveled by the critters. In a few days the active ants will have transferred this food laced with ant poison, the boric acid, back to the colony killing the Queen and interrupting the life style of the ant hill. Ants are prolific so new Queens are born, therefore I believe, this is a method of control not a complete eradication of the colonies because new colonies are forming as others collapse. Kissing their way to the top, ants who ingest the boric acid, do die, also.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why, Primary Elections

Homebound, I voted by absentee ballot these last election cycles. But, this time, I spent more time trying to understand what I was asked to do when filling out my choices. Seems, the greatest number of people on the ballot, who were strangers to me, were those running for delegates to the political party convention this summer.

Aside from our 6th district representative in congress, Ryan Costello, I really didn't know anything about any of the others listed that I was asked to pick three from. Through the news, awash in all mediums of public interaction, these delegates would be choosing the next presidential nominee, not me, by my vote for my presidential preference.

Why have a meaningless public primary ?

It seems reasonable that more investigative reporting should be done on those people we're asked to vote for to attend and participate in conventions. With the demise of local news organizations all over the country, who the heck will do the investigating ? Oops, or we'll uncover another instance of our countrymen eating our own seed corn.

The fact seemingly is : cigar smoking back room politicos never died but, like beetles, burry underground for awhile and only come out when food picking becomes easy. Herding these party zealots to do the old party bull's wanting is their purpose in being, their duty for the party bosses. It is best for them to be anonymous ! Without thought they carry the political baggage under the radar in a way it has always  been done. Don't allow stupid voters mess up a system that has lasted so long and has done what bosses wanted done is their clarion call.

Again, why do we in America have meaningless primary elections ?

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Band of Brothers Asks for Help

Lasting over 70 years our "Band of Brothers" is being challenged as I write this. Linwood Bieler, the youngster of our brothers, is in need of prayer to help pull him through his latest hospital stay. Lin fell last week, hit his head on a table, and needed hospitalization at Pottstown. He also needed additional treatment on his damaged eye which was provided for at Wills Eye. Linwood was released from Pottstown and was sent to Manatawny Manor for rehab but his fight with pneumonia returned with fervor and he is back at Pottstown. Since Lin is outfitted with a pacemaker and he takes a full compliment of heart medicine, his medical situation is quite different from many patients.

Linwood, Jack Bechtel, and myself are the active living members left in our band. Gone is Jack's brother Bill and, way back, we considered Bruce Rogers of Grandview Speedway as an early member. We understand Bruce may have been hospitalized in Florida this winter. If he was, we hope he's well now.

We, "The Band of Brothers", a rag tag bunch, due to our age are like the walking wounded, and I use the word walking with my tongue in my cheek since I haven't moved without a walker for many years. Lin quite recently began using a walker too. Jack, our emotional mouthpiece, lost much of his voice to throat cancer some time ago but, though hoarse, remains effervescent as ever. Please, give some positive thoughts to our brother Linwood Bieler. Thank you !

Ronald C. Downie