School days

A little trip down memory lane…

I was sitting in my classroom at one of those desks with a fixed work surface that slanted down toward the student. Perhaps you’ll recall they had a little groove cut into the desk, a short distance from the top, where you could place your pen or pencil.

When I picked up my book or paper that day, my pencil started rolling toward me. Probably because my hands were full, I did not catch it. However, as it fell toward my lap, I brought my legs together to keep it from hitting the floor.

It worked.

The pencil came down between my legs and was caught in the squeeze, eraser on my left leg, the point on my right. I might have squeaked a bit when the pencil lead dug into my thigh, but nobody said anything. I didn’t like drawing attention to myself back then.

It didn’t appear to bleed, so I waited until I got home to check it out. The only visible evidence was a dark spot, the approximate color of pencil lead, the skin giving it something of a blue tint.

Today, more than 55 years later, the spot remains on the inside of my right thigh, a few inches above my knee.

Here’s the point.

That was probably the most dangerous thing I experienced during fourth grade at Pine Tree Elementary School in Longview, Texas.

The most bothersome thing for me was never getting up the nerve to tell Wendy I liked her.

But absolutely no school shootings.

One more thing

Per everytownresearch.org, firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens.

Hey, batter

A youth baseball complex in Ogallala, Neb. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Ready or not, baseball season is upon us.

Major leaguers and wannabes are wrapping up spring training in Florida and Arizona prior to tossing out the first ball of the season Thursday. Colleges and high schools are well into their seasons.

And, of course, Little League and other youth league participants are practicing their throwing, catching, hitting, running and infield chatter.

Do they still do that?

When I was playing almost mumble-mumble years ago, chatter was a big part of the game. Primary chatterers were at first base, second, third and shortstop. Catchers often took part, too. Pitchers did not because they were busy at the time. Outfielders may have shouted, but it wasn’t as expected.

For anyone not familiar, the chatter was intended to distract the batter, mostly nonsensical things like, “Hey, batter, hey-batter, hey-batter … swing, batter!” There would also be plenty of pep talk for the pitcher, just as steeped in substance, “Put it in there, Alvin, put it in there.” Finally, a little goading was not uncommon, “He can’t hit, he can’t hit.”

It must have worked because players were taught to just block out all the noise whenever at bat.

And that tidbit is a great lesson in life.

Take care of your business and don’t let meaningless chatter distract you.

One more thing

A Roman walks into a bar. He holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please!”

Happenings

This has nothing to do with the Mariner 10 probe to Mercury, but it’s one of few astronomical photos on hand. I shot this hand-held during totality of the Jan. 20-21, 2019, lunar eclipse of a Blood Moon. Photo by Steve Martaindale

On this date, March 29, in 1974, the unmanned U.S. space probe Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to visit the planet Mercury.

I’ve always enjoyed the on-this-date features in newspapers. Don’t know why, but I seldom skip over them. In fact, I’ll often use one of the factoids for Facebook and Twitter posts. They sometimes make good conversation starters and often carry the potential to serve as reminders of good memories or warnings from bad events.

That’s what I started to do this morning and was impressed by the volume of notable events that have occurred on March 29.

My search began, as it often does, with The Associated Press’ daily column. You might want to bookmark https://apnews.com/hub/today-in-history for your use. Another great site is the History Channel at https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history. The AP has many more items listed, but history.com gives tremendous depth. It’s from there I grabbed the Mariner 10 info, including that Mercury’s surface temperature varies from 800 degrees Fahrenheit when facing the sun to -279 degrees when facing away.

Back to March 29 through the years. I’m not going to reprint the whole article, but you can find it by clicking here.

Let’s quickly skim over the highlights.

In 1861, President Lincoln ordered a relief expedition to Fort Sumter, S.C.

In 1867, Queen Victoria signed an act creating the Dominion of Canada.

In 1943, World War II rationing of meat, fats and cheese began.

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union.

In 1971, Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians in the 1968 My Lai massacre.

In 1971, a jury recommended the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female followers for the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders.

In 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam.

In 1974, eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on federal charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University.

In 1984, the Baltimore Colts football team moved to Indianapolis.

In 2004, seven former Soviet-bloc nations (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia) joined NATO.

In 2017, Britain filed for divorce from the European Union.

In 2020, country singer Joe Diffie died at 61 from what a spokesman said were complications from COVID-19.

In 2021, salvage teams dislodged a ship that had blocked the Suez Canal for six days.

But there’s more.

The AP article always ends with today’s birthdays. Those catching my attention were former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, 79; basketball Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, 77; football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, 67; actor Marina Sirtis, 67; actor Lucy Lawless, 54; and tennis Hall of Famer Jennifer Capriati, 46.

One more thing…

What do history teachers make when they want to get together?

Dates.

What’s your network?

A tweet from some person in the Twitterverse crossed my screen a few weeks ago in which the writer stated he or she would happily subscribe to a television network which continuously played reruns from a set of four or five specific shows.

Many others chimed in with their own lists, which helped bring to mind a number of series I haven’t seen in years. Of course, it also got me thinking about my personalized network (and don’t you know the technology is there to do that … think of Pandora).

Quite naturally, I wondered what your list would include. Would you share your ideal network lineup? Since it’s not fair, in my opinion, to compare current series with old shows, let’s limit it to shows from the 20th century. I’m leaving it open to those that crossed centuries if the majority of its episodes were prior to 2000.

Pick as many as six shows for your network and share with us. To help fire some aging synapses, I’ve dug out lists of titles and present them in no particular order. Note I did not double-check all the program names to make sure they’re correct, so some might be misrepresented, but you’ll recognize anything you really liked. My pick for Steve’s Personal Network (SPN) will be at the end. Please add your list in a comment.

Get Smart, Sanford & Son, Love American Style, Green Acres, Hawaii Five-O, I Dream of Jeanie, Mr. Ed, Petticoat Junction, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, Rockford Files, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Dragnet, Sgt. Bilko, The Honeymooners, Mork, The Jeffersons, Car 54 Where Are You?…

Burns & Allen, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Highway Patrol, My Three Sons, Soupy Sales, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, Cheers, Taxi, Family Affair, The Odd Couple, Love Boat, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Favorite Martian, F-Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, Dark Shadows, Night Court, That Girl, Facts of Life…

Bonanza, The Waltons, Combat!, Tales From the Crypt, Maverick, Laugh-In, The Muppet Show, McHale’s Navy, The Midnight Special, Roy Rogers, The Big Valley, Touched by an Angel, Perry Mason, The Fugitive, CHiPs, Emergency, Golden Girls, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, All in the Family, Harry and the Hendersons, The Beverly Hillbillies…

Police Squad, Hazel, The Monkees, Quincy M.E., Barnaby Jones, Have Gun Will Travel, The Little Rascals, M*A*S*H, Fantasy Island, Saved by the Bell, Leave it to Beaver, Hart to Hart, Matlock, Wagon Train, The Brady Bunch, Rifleman, Adam-12, The Three Stooges, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Dr. Who, Seinfeld, MacGyver…

Magnum PI, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Wonder Years, Married … With Children, Mission: Impossible, Murder She Wrote, Mod Squad, Twin Peaks, Gunsmoke, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Barney Miller, Good Times, What’s Happening?…

Dallas, In Living Color, Thirtysomething, Highway to Heaven, Roseanne, Hill Street Blues, Newhart, The Bob Newhart Show, Frazier, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Columbo, Barreta, The X-Files, Friends, The 6 Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, ALF, The Real McCoys, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel…

Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero, The Real McCoys, Alice, Flo, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, Family Ties, and … what else?

Obviously, this is not comprehensive, and someone will come up with a show I’ll be embarrassed to have overlooked.

Without further fanfare, my SPN channel will include: M*A*S*H, Taxi, The Bob Newhart Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Barney Miller, and Cheers.

One more thing…

Is there a more used and more helpful mnemonic than, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey”?

Delightful

Scared? Honestly, I’ve not seen many — any? — successful hiccup cures due to someone trying to startle the hiccups out of the patient. Photo by Steve Martaindale

I’m not sure my pastor believed me.

OK, wait, that statement could lead to a bushel basket of speculation, the validity of which I’m not willing to place under scrutiny; let me try again.

The preacher and I were chatting on the phone last week, something we try to do regularly, especially when Leah and I are on the road, as we’ve been since late May. For the life of me, I do not recall why I brought up the topic, but I asked, “Do you know how to cure hiccups?”

He made a feeble attempt to formulate a smart-aleck answer, possibly something to do with “boo,” but I cut him off: “A spoonful of sugar.”

(Bonus points to all readers who just heard, in their mind’s ear, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins sing, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.”)

Instead of singing, David, our preacher, said something like, “Oh, really.”

You can hear the doubt just reading those words, can’t you?

“Oh, really.”

My confirmation was two-pronged.

One, I have more than 20 years of practical application of the cure. Maybe more than 30 years. During that time, I told him, the very few efforts that failed to chase away hiccups with the first dose, inevitably succeeded with a second dose. Yes, in case you missed it, almost all of my hiccup attacks are vanquished with one spoonful of sugar. Sometimes, a second spoonful is required.

Two, there was actually a study done, published in 1971, that showed the sweet cure was effective in 19 of 20 patients. Like so many wonderful things, they’re not sure why, but the prevalent thought deals with how sugar affects the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and stomach. I don’t care why or how. I just cherish the knowledge that, if hiccups begin torturing me, a spoonful of sugar … well, you know.

Misty watercolor …

Patchwork clouds. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Think back for just a second.

Back to a time before you started school.

Briefly share with us the first memory you come up with.

My paternal grandfather, the man whose middle name my father and I both carried but who I called Papa, died when I was 4 years old.

My memory is walking with him – me holding one hand and my younger brother holding the other – to a little store a short distance from his home in the Spring Hill community that is now part of Longview, Texas.

I believe our mission was to buy eggs, and maybe we did, but I remember with certainty we returned with my brother and I each eating a piece of candy.

Your turn.