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Stories Archives for 2018-01

Button It Up


 
 
The lowly button has been around for centuries.  In modern clothing and fashion design, a button is a small fastener, now most commonly made of plastic.  They are found on most all types of clothing from dresses, shirts, blue jeans, and even suits.
 
Buttons made of seashell have been found that date back to around 2000 BC. Some buttons, used more as an ornament than as a fastening device, have been found which dated back about 5,000 years.
 
If one does just a little research into the history of buttons, a couple of questions will quickly come to mind.  The first question is - why do men’s and women’s shirts button on different sides?
 
If you’ve ever had to fold the laundry of men and women, you have invariably noticed that men’s shirts have their buttons on the right side of the garment.  However, women’s shirts have their buttons on the left side. Why is this?
 
Although there is no historical record or museum with an exhibit devoted to buttons and their history, most experts seem to cite the same simple rationale that dates back many centuries.  Their explanation is simply that men’s buttons are on the right side because men have always tended to dress themselves, and most men are right handed.  Thus it is far easier for the right handed man to button his own shirt.
 
Women’s buttons are on the left side because, dating back to the Victorian era, the women who could afford fancy clothing with a bunch of buttons would rely on maids to help dress them.  So, if a servant (most of who would be right handed) is going to routinely button up a shirt/dress on someone else, that servant is going to prefer to have the buttons on their right side, which would be the left side of the garment.
 
The second question which comes to mind is - why do men’s suit coats have buttons on the sleeves?  If you will note any of your suit coats, you will see a row of usually four buttons that seem to have no practical function.  Why are they there?
 
Back in the early days most men wore coats while in public, some even working in them.  Most of these buttons were actually functional which means a man could roll up his coat sleeve to protect the garment while doing a chore.  Some were called “surgeon’s sleeves” because a doctor would need to roll up his coat sleeves to protect it from damage.  These were functional buttons.  However, this is no longer the case.  The reason for that row of buttons still used on coats can be blamed on Frederick the Great.
 
Frederick the Great, ruler of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, used to enjoy nothing more than the sight of his troops neatly decked out in uniform and lined up in perfect rows.  Only one thing spoiled the scene; the soldiers insisted on sweating, getting dirty, catching diseases, and bleeding profusely.
 
Since no one had the foresight to provide the troops with Kleenex with which to mop their brows, the soldiers made do as best they could with their coat sleeves.  After a hard day’s skirmishing, said sleeves would be covered with unsightly blots and blemishes, and perhaps a vital organ or two.
 
Naturally, this was unacceptable to Frederick.  He pondered long and hard on what to do.  Finally, the solution dawned – sew metal buttons on the top sides of the sleeves, and soldiers would scratch their faces open every time they tried to use their coat sleeves for a handkerchief.  Thus was the snappy appearance of Frederick’s army preserved.
 
As the army uniforms metamorphosed into civilian dress, the sleeve buttons gradually migrated to the lower side.  Presumably by this time manners among the masses had improved enough that the threat of physical pain was no longer needed to encourage public decency.  Now the buttons stay there for the same reason men still wear ties: it’s always been done that way, they look vaguely natty, and most men are so baffled by matters sartorial that it never dawns on them to agitate for a change.
 
Now, if anyone ever asks you a question about buttons you will know the answer.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“BUTTON  IT  UP”
 
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 HEMLOCK STREET
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Web Site: www.etexasbook.com
 
 
712 words
 

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BULLYING


 

 

We hear a lot today about “bullying” as though it is something new.  The fact is that bullying has been around for as long as there have been schools.  The truth is that some kids will always bully another child who appears timid or afraid.  The old cure for bullying is frowned upon by the experts today, but the practice worked. Most bullies will back down if they are challenged, or if they are subjected to a good smack down by the victim.
 
The year was 1950, and I had just entered San Augustine, Texas, high school where I was considered lower than a snake’s belly by the upperclassmen.  There was an initiation that all freshmen had to endure, an informal one, but an initiation nonetheless.  I had been warned by older friends that if one “took his medicine” willingly and without complaint, then he was generally accepted into the brotherhood.
 
Lunchtime seemed to be a good time to kidnap some low-down freshman boy and take him off campus.  So, here I was, kidnapped from off the high school campus by several senior boys and left half naked in the woods.  They took off my shirt, shoes, and belt and left me alone to figure out a way to get back to school.  However, there was one thing the kidnappers, or should I say bullies, did not plan on – they left me about a hundred yards from my home.
 
So, I limped home, barefoot, to find some replacement clothes.  Unexpectedly, my parents had come home for lunch, so I had to explain to them what had happened to me.  I had been kidnapped, bullied, and left alone in the woods, or the initiation into high school.  I hoped that my dad would just let the matter drop and not make a big deal out of it.
 
My father did not appreciate his son being treated in this manner, and he put me in his car and drove down to the high school.  He complained to the principal about my being mistreated and left alone in the woods.  The principal promised to talk to these upperclassmen and take appropriate action.
Now, put yourself in my position.  That was really going to make those older guys mad, and guess who they were going to take out their frustrations on?  Right, me.  And that is exactly what happened.  The remainder of my freshman year was pure torture as these older boys would taunt me, call me names, and threaten me with severe bodily harm.  Of course, they never actually harmed me, but the idea that they might was a constant fear.  I think that we call that “terrorism” today.
 
The next school year was much better, as all these older boys had graduated and were no longer around.  And added to that, I was no longer a “snake’s belly” freshman, but a sophomore, which, in the pecking order, allowed me to inflict some bullying of my own on the new freshmen.  Nothing bad, you understand, but enough for them to realize their place in the order.
 
My father, in his effort to protect his son had really made things much worse for me that school year.  But, I never said anything to him about it, because I understood why he did it.
 
My “kidnapping” was in reality an act of bullying by much older boys which, in the big picture, did not amount to a hill of beans.  Perhaps bullying today is much worse now that the kids have the social media as a weapon to use.  Except for a very few severe cases, I think our modern progressive teachers and political leaders have over-reacted to an age-old form of initiation into the herd.  As long as there are kids and schools there will be bullying, which can usually be settled by the kids themselves if they are left alone.  I feel I did not suffer any permanent mental damage from my episode.  You just have to roll with the flow.
 
 
 
 
“BULLYING”
 
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 HEMLOCK  STREET
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
 
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
671 words
 
 
 
 
 

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A Bird in The Hand


 

 
Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  But is that thirteenth century proverb correct?  Our cat, Miss Kitty, taught me a lesson about birds several years ago that disputes the phrase.
 
As with most female cats, Miss Kitty, was  an avid hunter.  She regularly scoured our one-acre tract for any game - rats, lizards, mice, baby rabbits, and birds.  Mostly she just played with them and let them go, but sometimes she would devour a bird.
 
Around two o’clock one spring morning, our trusty cat scratched on our outside bedroom door alerting us that she wanted to come into the house.  This was her normal routine.  Still groggy from sleep, I crawled out of bed and opened the door.  I made a mistake by not checking first to see if she was bringing us a prize catch.  As I was closing the door I heard an unfamiliar noise from our cat.  Suddenly wide awake, I turned on the light and saw that Miss Kitty had brought in a bird to show us.
 
Ok, no problem - I will just throw the dead bird outside and that will be the end of the problem.  Not so.  I discovered the bird was still alive and flapping its wings.  Then the cat let go and the bird flew out of the bedroom and down our hallway.  By then my wife had awaken just in time to see the bird fly by.   “You got to get him outside”, she yelled at me.  “I’m trying”, I replied while running after the bird.  I yelled over my shoulder, “Bring me a big hat or something to trap the bird”.
 
The bird lit on several  pieces of furniture in the den but evaded my attempts to catch him.  Then he flew into the dining room and lit on the top of the hutch.  By this time I had an old straw hat in my hands attempting to get close enough to the prey to catch it.  Then a small miracle happened.  The bird flew just as I was attempted to cover him with the hat, and he flew right into the hat.  I grabbed his tail feathers with my right hand.  “I got him….I got him”, I announced proudly.  “Throw him outside”, my wife yelled.  “Go open the door for me”, I  instructed.  Then I tossed the terrified bird out the door and he flew off.  Miss Kitty, watching all this, seemed to be perturbed that her prey and been lost.
 
We got back into bed and lay there laughing.  “You looked so funny chasing that bird in your underwear”, my wife snickered.  “Well, you left it all up to me to protect our castle”, I whispered.  “I’ll tell you one thing, I will never open the door for Miss Kitty again without first checking to see if she has some critter in her mouth”, I vowed.  And I never did.
 
Now, back to this old adage, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  I began thinking about it - what does it mean?  I decided that it means that it is better to stick to something you already have, rather than pursuing something you may never get.   The basic warning is that you must take care not to get too greedy in life.  If you are holding a bird in the hand, you have your meal for the evening.  You can take that one bird and be well fed.  If instead you let it go to pursue two birds you’ve spied in the bush, you may catch neither, and wind up hungry for the night. 
 
This proverb points out that by passing up a sure thing for a more promising possibility, you also run the risk of losing both the  sure thing and the promising possibility.
 
Somehow I don’t think Miss Kitty knew anything about this little phrase about birds, she was just doing what cats naturally do.  But I did have a bird in my hands, but set him free to join the two birds in the bush.  A bird in the hand is good, but birds in the bush might sing songs to us.
 
 
 
“A BIRD IN THE HAND”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
712 Words
 
 

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BRASS MONKEY BUSINESS


 

 

 
 
I suspect that we are all familiar with the colloquial expression concerning brass monkeys.  Most of the sayings have to do with weather – cold weather. When and how did this idiom arise, and what do brass monkeys have to do with the weather? Research on this reveals interesting information.
 
During the 19th and 20th centuries, small monkeys cast from the alloy brass were very common tourist souvenirs from China and Japan.  They usually, but not always, came in a set of three representing the Three Wise Monkeys.  You may recall that these sets which showed monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouths represented “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil”.  Old brass monkeys of this type are now collector items.
 
Somewhere along the line the phrase “it’s cold enough to freeze the tail off a brass monkey” became popular.  People began to change the phrase to add additional body parts, such as the nose, ears, or testicles as an image of something solid and inert that could only be affected by extreme low temperatures.
 
Experts disagree, but the most common explanation of this phrase comes from ship captains during the very early days of sailing ships by the British navy at the time of the Napoleonic wars.  Every ship had to have cannons for protection.  The cannons of that day required round iron projectiles, or cannon balls.  The captain wanted to store the cannonballs so that they could be of instant use if attacked, but not be rolling around on the gun deck.
 
The solution was to stack the balls up in a square-based pyramid next to the cannon.  The top level of the stack had but one ball, the next level had four, the next had nine, the next had sixteen, and so on.  Four levels would provide a stack of thirty cannon balls.  The only real problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher levels.
 
To prevent this, engineers devised a small brass plate, named a “brass monkey”, with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the bottom layer.  Brass was used because the cannonballs would not rust to the brass monkey as it would an iron one.
 
An unexpected problem arose with the use of the brass monkey.  When the temperature falls, brass contracts in size faster than iron.  As it got colder on the gun decks, the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding.  If the temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentation, thus spilling the entire pyramid of balls over the ship’s deck.  Thus, it was, quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.
 
Though no one knows for sure where this phrase originated, it is widely believed that the reference is almost certainly 16th to 18th century humor, just like it is used today to emphasize how cold it is.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“BRASS MONKEY BUSINESS”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
P.O. Box 511
107 Hemlock Street
San Augustine, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Web Site: www.etexasbook.com
 
503 words

 

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